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Notes On The Week That Was (Sep. 19, 2001)

USEFUL background reading: "Among the Believers" by the novelist V.S. Naipaul, an account of Naipaul's 1979 trip through the Islamic countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, Iran, and Pakistan. The best book I know of on the origins of the Jewish fanaticism driving much of the unrest in the Middle East is "Jewish History, Jewish Religion" by the late Israel Shahak. Both books are in print and available at most new and used book stores.

AMONG THE TRULY courageous Americans lauded for their heroism during The Event please count Barbara Lee, the Oakland congresswoman, who is clearly the bravest American of all.  Ms. Lee was on the lonely end of last week's Congressional 240-1 blank check for Bush, whose premature declarations of war ignited a national frenzy of mindlessness. War against whom? Where? Were these attacks state-sponsored terrorism or did a band of freelance fanatics just get lucky? A real leader would look before leading the whole country into the unknown. Ms. Lee, currently being vilified by the long-distance warriors of talk radio, said that she thought it was unwise to lash out militarily in some kind of D-Day-like invasion of Afghanistan. She said that it would be more sensible to capture and try the persons responsible while improving security and intelligence gathering. Unfortunately, she's not president.

OR NORTHCOAST CONGRESSPERSON. Our rep, Mike Thompson, provided Sunday's Ukiah Daily Journal with a photo of his shirtsleeve, photo-op, opportunistic, jive self at the scene of the catastrophe.

DICK CHENEY, Bush, Greenspan all recommend consumer spending to shore up our reeling economy. I agree, and if you'll send me whatever cash you can spare I promise to immediately put it back into circulation. 

WATCHING The Event on television, Giuliani, like him or not, is quite impressive. He's on for hours with his top administrators patiently answering questions. Bush is incoherent, and almost goes completely to pieces on camera at one point. Sunday evening he, Mrs. Bush and their two effete dogs emerge from a huge presidential helicopter as a Marine stands rigidly to. A black guy comes jogging up to lead the dogs off. The visual, so far, is Gone With The Wind 2001. Bush then delivers a typically garbled statement about the Get The Ragheads coalition he's assembling, singling out "Prime Minister Modge Podge of India" for his help in putting the coalition together. Bush again urges US to get out to the mall and buy stuff. He implies that buying stuff is our patriotic duty.

CONSIDERED ONLY AS A VISUAL, the above tableau, beamed all over the world, does not inspire confidence. If I were looking at it from the Musama bin Bomb's perspective, I'd see an effete pair of silly rich people whose unclean  (to Muslims) pets are tended by a servant who looks like the global majority who are much worse off than the two dogs. A much better visual for the global audience would have been the First Couple arriving on a motor bike without their dogs but accompanied by Louis Farrakahn and Muhammed Ali, both of whom would then denounce terrorism as un-Muslim, which it is, theologically speaking.

MY FAVORITE television clip was of a young couple discussing The Event over what appeared to be a restaurant dinner. The young man wants to "bomb the hell out of 'em." The young woman says, " But how can you tell which one of them did it?" adding, "Why can't people who work in tall buildings have parachutes?" The young man looks up from his meal and stares at her for long seconds.

HAVING LOGGED something like 15 hours of TV coverage, I have yet to see a single guest expert provide so much as a hint of the political context of The Event. Bush, Gephardt and other elected personages keep saying that the attack happened because "We love freedom." We all know that happy people can be extremely irritating, but they seldom inspire suicidal mass assaults on the happy and unhappy alike. Commercial television is never more revelatory of its true self than in times like these, hours and hours of images that inspire in the great mass of the people looking at them desires for revenge, an extremely unhealthy emotion in individual human beings, frightening in masses of human beings. Even if the Bush apparatus were capable of intelligent, measured, proportionate response, with millions of television-incited Americans howling for immediate revenge, poll-driven government of the type we suffer will give US disproportionate revenge likely to lead to escalating series of terrorist attacks on US and wholesale murders of them.

BEST PRINT COVERAGE of The Event that I've seen, mainstream division, has been in the Wall Street Journal. The WSJ's account of the Italian police rampage in Genoa was also far superior to anything on that particular atrocity that appeared any place else that I saw. The WSJ doesn't want a war, wants an end to the bombing of Iraq, wants the US to restrain the fanatics driving Israel's ongoing war on the Palestinians, all of which is bad for business. 

"RID WORLD OF EVIL" appeared in what appeared to be twenty-point type on the front page of last Saturday's Press Democrat. For a wild moment I thought the PD was declaring suicide as its contribution to purging the earth of ultra-bad. Then I remembered I'd heard Bush make the same vow several times. Pretty big job, George. If God Himself couldn't cull a single reptile from the Garden of Eden a somewhat less powerful person like yourself is unlikely to cleanse today's globe of sin and sinners. A stern recommendation against religious superstition, the perennial global evil that has again caused mass murder, would be most welcome, especially from an American president. But most of US would settle for the arrest and orderly prosecution of the boys who committed this specific evil and leave it at that. 

WALKING around the Boonville Fair last Friday afternoon, coupla different libs asked me if I was offended by all the American flags popping up everywhere. No, I'm not. Nothing wrong with patriotic expression so long as it isn't mandatory and so long as demagogues aren't permitted to exploit it for the wrong reasons.

ANONYMOUS MALE CALLER late Wednesday evening: "You gonna be one a those candle light vigil people?" No, I'm not a candle light kind of guy. Besides which, and I speak from years of personal experience, I can tell you that many of Mendocino County's candle light vigil people possess Taliban tendencies themselves. The only difference between the Taliban at the Mendocino Environment Center and Musama bin Bomb is that Musama bin Bomb is smarter and much more disciplined.

I'M FOR EFFECTIVE counter-measures which, it seems to me, would begin with American support for all the democratic, secular opposition groups throughout the Moslem world rather than blind support for the degenerate sheikdoms of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait we depend on as guardians of cheap fuel for SUVs. No justice, no peace, as the slogan says.

OUR CRIMINAL ELEMENT — high end financiers and bankers — should be unleashed on the funding apparatuses of the terrorist groups and their national sponsors. Charles Hurwitz is worth at least a division of Marines in the kind of war we're going to have to fight to stop terrorism.

ASSUMING that the two draft dodgers running our government — Bush and Cheney — intend a military invasion of Afghanistan, I'm for an old guys first strike force, meaning that the initial ground forces would consist entirely of American men over the age of 50 instead of 18-year-olds. Young people should get a chance to live, not die in cold, cold mountains far, far away. I'll go. I can be ready to go on a day's notice. I've got an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps, I can still pass the Marine physical, I've got a rifle, a shotgun, two pistols, three pepper sprays, and I don't like any kind of Taliban, foreign or domestic.  I also could use some time off.

THE NUTTIEST local reaction to The Event was the announcement in the Ukiah Daily Journal that persons who feel the need to talk about it can call the Mendocino Environment Center for therapeutic assistance.

SECOND NUTTIEST reaction was a "news" report on KMUD from Darryl Cherney that his mother, who lives several miles from the World Trade Center was unscathed.

MUSLIM FRIENDS OF OURS, a mother and her teenage daughter who live in Eugene, Oregon, took quite a few death threats and even more insults at work and at school. The teenage Muslim is the only Mohammaden on campus. Even before the horrific atrocity in New York and at the Pentagon, she often found herself compelled to function as spokesperson for all Arabs everywhere. I must say she's very good at it for a kid, being so much better informed than her hectoring peers and her mostly ignorant teachers. One of the Eugene men who called in one of the death threats to our friends has been arrested by the Eugene police. The police  also advised our friends that for their own safety and welfare they shouldn't wear head scarves or otherwise look like followers of the Prophet.

THE DUMBEST "PATRIOTS" in the country would have to be the Yuba City guys who tried to beat up a pair of Sikhs.

UKIAH WALMART and Ukiah K-Mart ran out of flags last Friday. They also have exhausted their supplies of red, white and blue lapel ribbon. As of Monday, they were still out.

BARRY VOGEL, the well-known Ukiah lawyer, is stranded in Vietnam where he'd been vacationing when WW III kicked off last Tuesday morning. Persons who hope Vogel remains stranded there until after the elections so he can't be elected to the Mendocino County Superior Court are excused for their unkind sentiments due to the stress of recent events.

AS IT HAPPENS, I called the MEC Monday afternoon to ask about a fictitious business name statement which had appeared in a recent Ukiah Daily Journal. The legal notice announced that Gregory Alan Bourget would be doing business as Redwood Nation Earth First! Earth First! has been a business proposition for several Northcoast notables for years now, so cash and carry activism is hardly new around here, but I was curious. 

I INTRODUCED myself to the man who answered the MEC's phone and told him what I wanted. "I don't think any of us would want to talk to you about any information at all," he said. I asked him his name. "I work here at the MEC." Yes, but what's your name. "Greg," he said, as he hung up.

IT SEEMS I'll have to look elsewhere for grief counseling than the warm, wonderful folks at the tax-exempt, non-profit called the Mendocino Environment Center.

THE MEC'S "GREG" would seem to be this Gregory Bourget character I was looking for in the first place. His legal ad says his headquarters are at 618 S. Oak, Ukiah. Anybody know this guy? Anybody care to more broadly speculate as to why our county's self-certified warm wonderfuls contain so many nasty and utterly graceless persons?

RETALIATORY VIOLENCE is fine with me so long as it's proportionate and part of a sensible, long-range strategy to isolate and destroy terrorist networks. But given the givens of our present leadership, we're unlikely to get anything but excess and escalating rounds of mass murder.

THE UKIAH DAILY JOURNAL's front page of Tuesday, September 11th, was composed prior to The Event so there was no war news in it. But below the fold, its two righthand columns were occupied by a press release called, "Hazmobile honored by industry group." The  author was identified as "The Daily Journal." In fact, the story was a press release written by (or for) Mike Sweeney of Mendocino Solid Waste Management Authority, a public agency and one of two tax-funded Mendocino County garbage apparatuses. Sweeney's girl friend, Glenda Anderson, is a reporter for the Daily Journal. 

HAVING TAKEN A KEEN INTEREST in Mendocino County's lead recycler who also happens to have been married to Judi Bari when she was blown up in Oakland in 1990, I note that whenever the Bari Bombing mystery is in the news, as it is at this time, the Journal, the Willits News, the Coast papers, and KZYX dutifully re-produce Sweeney-drafted press releases as if they were news, and as if Sweeney's self-created MSWMA had not in fact failed to meet the state-mandated recycling goals set by the state for Mendocino County. Why newspapers print press releases as news is itself a question worth asking, not that it isn't common these days, and not that the local offenders are likely to answer the question.

IN ANOTHER EXAMPLE of in-county journalo-fraud, last week's Fort Bragg Advocate News contained this blithe re-write of a widely-witnessed Fort Bragg event: "An anonymous (and hence unpublished) letter writer recalls that a few months ago, certain people characterized our volunteer firefighters as blue-shirted thugs when they appeared at a reception for former chief Will Phenix.The reference was to the volunteers' blue T-shirts, worn as a sign of respect to Phenix and the department......"

IN FACT, current fire chief Steve Orsi, summoned his faction of firefighters, their wives, girl friends, and even some of their children, put on their blue shirts and gather at the Fort Bragg Fire House the night Phenix was being honored at nearby City Hall. Orsi and his Blue Shirts, carrying placards in praise of themselves, marched noisily up the street. But as they appeared at City Hall, one of Will Phenix's daughters screamed at them, "How dare you!" throwing the Blue Shirts into a state of confusion. They milled around for awhile outside before most of them left. A few entered City Hall to join the crowd bidding farewell to Phenix who had been driven from his job as fire chief by the people the Orsis had mobilized for one last mass Blue Shirt insult to Phenix on the night Fort Bragg was paying tribute to him for his many years of service to the community.

IF THE ADVOCATE is going to lie in everybody's faces, it ought to take care to lie about unwitnessed occurrences. 

AND I LOVE the pious disclaimer in the flagrant re-write of the Blue Shirt episode. "An anonymous and hence unpublished...."  Sharon. Please. The Advocate's editor and publisher, Sharon Brewer, doesn't seem to realize that the only diff between unsigned editorial items and unsigned letters-to-the-editor is the page number each appears on.  

THE ADVOCATE'S "LOOSE ENDS" goes on to quote from the unpublished Blue Shirt letter: "Over the Labor Day weekend, at least two of those same people (the anti-Blue Shirts) were seen in Safeway wearing T-shirts showing a female chicken on a pool table with her legs in the air, surrounded by firemen. The wording said, 'Your volunteer fire department. Don't YOU want to volunteer?'"

LOOSE ENDS adds, "All of which goes to prove there's a shortage of therapists in town."

I'D SAY there's a shortage of journalists and newspapers in town, but there's no shortage of what therapists call "denial" about an extremely ugly series of essentially criminal events. But hey, we're talking about a town that allows its leading citizens to burn down the town library, courthouse and oldest hotel, and allows the Orsi Brothers to get away with killing Danny Murray, and allowed the late Jim Cummings to beat his wife into the hospital, and allows a guy to put an extra floor on his motel, and allows the same guy to get away with assaulting an elected official in the lobby of City Hall, and allows its fire department to gang rape an impaired woman on a pool table in its fire house. Hell, what's a cartoon on a T-shirt in this context? 

ASSEMBLY PERSON Virginia Strom-Martin exhausted herself out last week jumping to her feet to deliver standing ovations to the fine work of her colleagues. Friday she faxed us, "Strom-Martin Applauds Low Performing Schools Legislation." She seems to be against low-performing schools.

THE NEXT DAY, Strom-Martin faxed us again. "Strom-Martin Applauds Parks Bond; Rural Counties Could Get Substantial Share." The operative word here is "could," and maybe the old girl ought to sit on her hands until the check is cut.

NOT TO BE TOO CHURLISH about it, but it seems far beyond the real life political behavior of the late Nat Bingham and the late Chuck Hinsch to name a Big River park after them. Bingham opposed local forest rules and otherwise was about as much of an environmentalist as, say, the career officeholders he fronted for. Hinsch was similarly among the missing when it came to standing up for Big River against Georgia-Pacific's rampages. I think any permanent environmental set aside on Big River ought to be jointly named after the late Andree Connors and the present Ron Guenther. Guenther has fought destructive timber harvest plans on the Mendocino Coast for many years, and he wasn't a multi-millionaire gentleman farmer like Hinsch and he didn't parlay his work for what's left of the trees into a job as lib-lab gofer like Bingham did.

ANDREE CONNORS. Poor old chain smoking, poetry writing, living in her van, mastectomy, Andree. She personally gathered thousands of signatures on petitions to stop G-P from laying waste to Big River back in '87-'88. She stopped them, too, and nary a peep nor so much as an offer of help Hinsch and Bingham.

SHUNKA UPDATE. I'd never heard of the Earth First! spokesperson calling itself "Shunka" until last week. I've since received the bad news. "Shunka," an Arcata reader informs us, is a twenty-something man who appeared in town a few years ago and quickly established himself as one of Arcata's more tediously ubiquitous residents, and there's a lot of competition in Arcata for that particular category of recognition. Shunk's main claim to fame is that he was sitting nearby when the Chain kid was killed by a tree felled at a PL logging job. Shunka informs anyone who makes the mistake of asking, that his adopted name means "dog" in the Lakota language, and am I the only one who thinks Native Americans need an Anti-Defamation League? Every paleface ding in the country either claims to be a Cherokee or otherwise drags Indians down into the vast back wards of neo-hippie Coo-Coo land of drum circles and mugs them for preciously goofy fake names. Unless you've got a written mental health exemption from a tribal council, leave the Indians out of it.

SHUNKA'S REAL NAME is Jason Wilson. Shunka's often seen in the company of a guy who calls himself "Four Winds," an identity immediately modified by Arcatans to, "Fart Winds." Shunka's something of an Arcata-area legend for delivering lengthy statements of the obvious to captive audiences. "If you try to argue with him about anything, he calls you a fascist and walks away," a Shunka-weary Arcatan says.

A RECENT CHRON piece says a poet named Carolyn Kizer will be "honored" by Sonoma State University for reasons not clarified by this sample of her poetry cited by the Chron:

I struggle

With the terrible Sheraton, its

unfair labor practices

Concerning the ladies who

change the beds and mop

the bathrooms

And fold the ends 

of the toilet paper

Into those stupid triangles,

and put the mints on the


SO WHY STAY at the terrible Sheraton? Check in with the Patels on the other side of town for $30 and spare yourself $270 of overnight agony. I gave up poetry forty years ago when I realized I wasn't any good at it. I also gave up competitive athletics about the same time for the same reason. But the more poetry I read, the more I want to get back up there with Ms. Kizer, Gordy Black and the Sonoma State English Department:

Love me,

  not for my mint-fresh breathe,

but for being a liberal in for the day from  the suburbs

to think good thoughts at the Sheraton.

I've summoned room service

for the tired little Mexican lady

who works three jobs

because people like me

need extra pillows at all no overtime hours

but never tip for them because

"Tipping demeans the working class," Fidel said,

as I lay in a Havana cabana as my drunken pig of a husband

waved two kinds of hard currencies at the pretty Cuban girls

if they'd lie down with him for a viagra lunge or two.

The drive to the city from Sonoma has exhausted me. 

All the way down 101 

I was sad thinking about the Mexican ladies triangulating my  toilet paper and dusting off my pillow mints.

I voted for Al Gore!

      Al promised to keep them all

on the hot side of the border

except for the ones we need here to tidy up our $300 rooms and

to get awards for feeling sorry for in arhytmic poems for a bunch

of lit-proof profs.

There's a charge card where my heart should be, and I can't                    hardly rhyme  thyme with daylight savings time 

but I think right

not that anybody in Cotati is likely to know

that false feeling isn't necesarily horizontal. Hell, if Wallace Stevens could be rich and artistic too, why not me? 

Because I'm a woman? Hah! I'll show the 

phallocracy who's got the real penis! 

Snip their puny poesy puds too, I will.

Longfellow my Williams of Sonoma suburban ass! 

It's the thought that counts, 

and I've got the correct ones,

and a no-limit American Express card too. 

Gimmee another one-a them

no-tip Mexican mints.

THE CHRON'S last paragraph on Ms. Kinzer quoted her as saying, 'I tell people I never got to hear Dylan Thomas read because my first husband thought it would be a bad influence."

SHE SHOULDA called the cops. Hell, I never got to hear him read either because I was 22, had no money, worked a bunch of minimum wage night jobs while I wasted a year out at SF State where a professor told me and a bunch of other dupes that a poem was a nexus of segmental phonemes. Huh? I asked, asking myself why I was going to all the trouble of lower education. I  lived at the Harrison Street Hotel at 5th and Harrison for $30 a week and a change of sheets every seven days from the shell shocked veteran who ran the place. The building leaned noticeably to the east. When we met on the streets, me and the old guys and drunks who lived there would lean to one side in silent greeting like a secret brotherhood. One Sunday afternoon a girl friend of mine came to visit me but burst into tears in the hallway. "It's so depressing here," she said. I thought the Leaning Building on Harrison Street was extremely cool, and I liked it there because my room had high ceilings and looked out on the street. Best of all, the people who lived there had interesting tales to tell, and some of them were crazy in un-oppressive ways, making the Leaning Harrison Street Hotel much more of a learning experience than the dreary classrooms out in the Ocean Avenue summer fog. But my girl friend was the sensitive beatnik type without much in the way of coping mechanisms. Pretending to be poor in a coffee shop on upper Grant was one thing, being poor at 5th and Harrison another. Her perpetual over-wroughtness soon began to annoy me, as did her monologues about Jane Austin. Don't get me wrong; Jane's fine, but at age 20 a young guy doesn't want to sit around sipping high strung tea and blowing his nose on heirloom antimacassars. I heard she married a guy who lived on Belvedere Island, which is where she should have looked in the first place, given her psycho-credentials. Seldom having the price of admission for entertainment beyond Muni fare to get the Main Library when I didn't feel like footing it there,  I moved into one of the $20 rooms, no clean sheets unless you washed them yourself, and no sink to pee in. With the money I saved by a cheaper room and other austerities, including 85-cent meals in Chinatown on Jackson Street of rice, pork chops, gravy, and a hunk of boiled cabbage once a day,  I invested in Caedmon poetry recordings of Thomas reading his poetry, Vincent Price reading Edgar Allen Poe, Marianne Moore reading her poetry and Robert Frost reading his. I could hear Dylan Thomas in full stereo any time I wanted. The old guy next door asked me to turn the volume down, then he asked me if I was "confused," consensus public opinion at the time being that poetry and homosexuality were somehow related. The patriarchy never stopped anybody from hearing good poetry who really wanted to, kiddo. Ditto for writing it.

One Comment

  1. Douglas Wayns Coulter September 18, 2021

    That the sum sanity might add to naught
    And words fall crippled from slaving lips,
    Girls take to broomsticks when the thief of night
    Has stolen the starved babies from their laps,
    I would enforce the black apparelled cries,
    Speak like a hungry parson of the manna,
    Add one more nail of praise on to the cross,
    And talk of light to a mad miner.
    I would be woven a religious shape;
    As fleeced as they bow lowly with the sheep,
    My house would fall like bread about my homage;
    And I would choke the heavens with my hymn
    That men might see the devil in the crumb
    And the death in a starving image.
    Dylan Thomas

    A poem never published during his life becomes my own favorite

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