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Mendocino County Today: Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021

Sunny Skies | 8 New Cases | Tree Lighting | Stupid Callers | MacDonald Memorial | Vaccine Development | Beer/Food Pairings | Redbeard Interview | Good Farm Fund | Lucifer Rising | MRC Work | Arresting Manson | Crab Season | Ed Notes | Yesterday's Catch | Vax Rates | Card Games | Black Peanut | Twitter Phenomenon | Motorskates | Nostalgia | Don't Bother | Watching Sondheim | We're Fools | Good War

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AFTER SOME MORNING LOW CLOUDS AND FOG across the interior valleys this morning, mostly sunny skies will prevail today. More coastal clouds will return to the area by Thursday. Daytime highs across the interior will continue to run well above normal, but nighttime lows and coastal temperatures will remain mostly seasonal. (NWS)

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8 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon.

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BE THERE! Tree Lighting To Raise Funds For the Anderson Valley Food Bank This Thursday

The Boonville Hotel is hosting a tree lighting to raise funds for the Anderson Valley food bank holiday season this Thursday, December 2!

The tree gets lit at 6 PM with cups of soup and cheese biscuit to follow, and holiday music by the real Sarahs!

It will all be outdoors so bundle up everybody!

We’ll have the bonfire roaring.

Hope you can make it!

Suggested donation $15

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THE FIRST TWO CALLERS on KZYX’s Dr. Drew Colfax Covid Update show Tuesday morning insisted that the vaccine had made them “stupid.” Dr. Colfax said he wasn’t aware of any studies or data showing that vaccines make you stupid. The callers said they noticed a loss of short-term memory after getting vaccinated and were absolutely positive that the vaccine caused it. Dr. Drew suspected that the callers were mistaking coincidence with causality and that it was unlikely that stupidity is a vaccine side effect. However, both callers were KZYX listeners, both were from Willits and both of them sounded like they were not exactly spring chickens. So there may be other factors causing their stupidity.

(Mark Scaramella)

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VACCINE DEVELOPMENT

The failure to quickly back the sharing of intellectual property/patents for vaccines so far, has meant that many low- and middle-income countries have been left without adequate access to a vital tool to combat the pandemic. 

Miriam Brett, neweconomics.org, July, 2021

It strains credulity to think that in 2021 alone, Pfizer/BioNTech will score $15 billion to $30 billion for COVID-19 vaccine sales, while Moderna could rake in $18 billion to $20 billion and Johnson & Johnson $10 billion. Couldn’t these companies have earned less while the incentive to innovate remained intact?

Nancy Jecker, Seattle Times, August 2021, “Who Owns Covid Vaccines”

Moderna is offering to share ownership of its COVID-19 vaccine patent with the U.S. government National Institute of Health to resolve the dispute, the vaccine maker said, and would allow the Biden administration to "license the patents as they see fit." 

An NIH spokesperson declined Monday to comment directly on Moderna's offer, citing "ongoing discussions." 

CBSnews.com November 2021

MEMO OF THE WEEK

November 2, 2021

Dr. Francis Collins
Director, National Institutes of Health
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, Maryland 20892

Dear Dr. Collins,

We are writing to raise our concern about new patent applications filed by Moderna that do not list federal scientists as co-inventors of the NIH-Moderna coronavirus vaccine, mRNA-1273. This exclusion may erase the critical contributions of federal scientists in inventing the vaccine.

The NIH and its academic partners have done seminal work underpinning coronavirus vaccine development. Last year, we documented how nearly all the leading coronavirus vaccines use the NIH stabilized spike protein technology, starting with mRNA-1273. However, it was clear that Moderna uniquely benefited from federal support. “We did the front end. They did the middle. And we did the back end,” said Dr. Barney Graham, a former top NIH official, referring to the process for designing the spike protein sequence, manufacturing vaccines, and running clinical trials. A lack of transparency precluded us from identifying additional patent applications specific to mRNA-1273.

Since then, new evidence has emerged showing that Moderna did not name NIH scientists as co-inventors in three patent applications covering the composition of the spike protein sequence encoded by mRNA-1273. Federal scientists are only acknowledged as co-inventors for one patent application covering a method of use for mRNA-1273. Because co-inventorship creates a presumption of co-ownership, this series of exclusions could have important public health consequences if and when the patent applications mature into issued patents around the world. We urge you to publicly reclaim the foundational role of the NIH, and use your leverage to champion global vaccine access.

Under U.S. patent law, a person who makes a significant contribution to the conception of an invention is a joint inventor Joint inventors do not have to make the same type or amount of contribution: “A joint inventor as to even one claim enjoys a presumption of ownership in the entire patent.” U.S. law requires the patent application to list the correct inventors.

NIH scientists have noted their significant scientific contributions to the spike protein sequence encoded by mRNA-1273. “On Jan. 7, we talked to the CEO of Moderna, and he said as soon as you send us the sequence and what to make, they’ll start manufacturing,” recalled Dr. Barney Graham. Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett’s academic biography notes “the vaccine concept incorporated in mRNA-1273 was designed by Dr. Corbett’s NIH team from viral sequence and rapidly deployed to industry partner, Moderna, Inc.” According to Dr. Corbett, an earlier partnership with Moderna focused on the MERS coronavirus helped accelerate the SARS-CoV-2 response. “We worked together for several years on MERS vaccines. We even knew based on my lab notebooks what doses would work in animals, what exact construct to design, vaccine schedule, etc.” (emphasis added)

Moderna acknowledges the role played by the NIH in a more limited way. Moderna says it finalized the sequence in collaboration with the NIH, but that it had a separate team working in parallel with the NIH that independently designed (i.e., conceived) the exact sequence as the NIH team. They merely “compared notes” at the end.

We are skeptical of Moderna’s characterization. Designating two independent teams to solve the same problem would mark an unusual style of scientific collaboration in a pandemic, and seems to go against the public statements of federal scientists. The claim that two independent teams invented the same spike protein sequence and made the same design choices would also represent a notable coincidence.

The NIH appears to share some of our concern. A filing with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office reveals that the NIH asked Moderna to include NIH scientists as co-inventors of U.S. Application No. 17/000,215. Moderna, however, denied the request and claimed that that the federal scientists “did not co-invent the mRNAs and mRNA compositions claimed in the present application.

We urge you to publicly clarify the role of the NIH in the invention of the vaccine, and to explain the steps you intend to take to ensure the contributions of federal scientists are fully recognized, including any legal remedies. We also request that you publish all research agreements with Moderna. We are concerned that Moderna’s decision to file for patents alone—weeks after it knew that its NIH partners worked on the same problem and had reached the same solution—may not be consistent with the terms or the spirit of the contractual arrangement between NIH and Moderna.

Co-inventorship creates a presumption of co-ownership. Co-ownership can empower the U.S. government to authorize additional manufacturers to use some mRNA-1273 patents around the world, including through the Medicines Patent Pool, without Moderna’s permission. It can also significantly bolster the public’s understanding of the critical role played by federal scientists in the invention and development of the NIH-Moderna vaccine. With huge gaps in global vaccine access, the need for the U.S. government to assert more control over this technology — including through the Defense Production Act — only grows more urgent.

Sincerely,

Peter Maybarduk
Director, Access to Medicines Program
Public Citizen

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I JUST READ Matt LaFever’s interview with Redbeard Evers. In a way he’s not very different from the street people we post every day in the Sheriff’s Log. But on the plus side, he did his thing in the woods, not on State Street in downtown Ukiah, bravely dealing with rough nature like old Mendolanders once did, albeit with a drug and alcohol problem. But then a lot of old Mendolanders were drunks too, even some very prominent ones. As for the burglary, he could have kept it to minimal survival theft and not been much trouble, but drunken break-ins and netflix and jewelry and property damage and guns and stuff don’t fit with the noble-hermit-living-in-nature image some seem to see him as. Mendocino County has had its share of hermits and semi-hermits and none of them were thieves (that I know of). As for being a common burglar? Hell, official Mendo steals more money from the general public than Redbeard could ever dream of every day. 

(Mark Scaramella)

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DOUG MOSEL: Having raised and distributed a quarter of a million dollars in grants to small farmers, I can think of no volunteer effort that has done more to support local food production in tangible ways than the Good Farm Fund. Grants have helped the Mendocino Grain Project to do a better job cleaning grain and improving the soil that produces dry-farmed, climate-friendly heirloom grains. 

This Giving Tuesday, please give generously to this important cause!

grapevine.org/giving-circle/k9WtwRz/-

#givingtuesday @goodfarmfund

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DEBORAH SILVA WRITES:

Did you realize that the poster, Equinox of the Gods, you put up on [yesterday's] MCT is very much Manson related?

The headliner band, Magick Powerhouse of Oz, was Manson Family member Bobby Beausoleil's band. That particular concert was the beginning of Beausoleil's downward slide to a life lived in prison.

The night of the concert which was a benefit to raise money for the filming of "Lucifer Rising", Beausoleil became angry with Kenneth Anger who he lived with at "The Russian Embassy" on Alamo Square in San Francisco. Consequently, he stole reels of the film "Lucifer Rising" from the Straight Theater that night. [see article at right]

This is a pretty good summation of all of the events surrounding Anger's film. Though rather long winded it touches on Beausoleil's later crimes with Manson: pleasuresofpasttimes.com/kenneth-anger-lucifer-rising-1966-1981/

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MRC AT WORK

Mendocino Redwood Company destroys tree line and forest above Wild and Scenic Albion River

From: info@friendsofenchantedmeadow.org

Please click on video below!

See what MRC is doing to Friends Of Enchanged Meadow’s sanctuary area's that we hope to preserve for the earth and future generations.

Please pass along and share!

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MANSON, filling in the blanks. Duncan James of Ukiah writes, “Back in the days I was a Deputy District Attorney in 1968, I did the search warrant on the property in Philo that got things rolling and resulted in the arrests of the Manson family. I was present during the initial interviews of the two minors who were furnished the LSD which led to the search warrant and affidavit in support thereof. I believe it was about a year earlier in around July 1967 when Charlie Manson had been arrested in Leggett for resisting arrest (Penal Code sec. 148). The search warrant was good. It was other events which caused the evidence to be suppressed by Mendocino Superior Court Judge Robert Winslow. It is not that we don’t know each other. You should have called. I would have been happy to help you fill in the blank spaces that exist in the books and court records that might explain a number of things. Anyway, have a great holiday season.”

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CRAB SEASON OPENER

On Sunday, Pier staff began loading crab pots for the official open of dungeness crab season on December 1. It made for a long, busy day. Much appreciation is deserved for Sean Robertson, Doug Burkey & Dominick Beck for their long hours and dedication to our fishing community! (Paul Andersen, Point Arena)

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ED NOTES

INCOMMUNICADO. The AVA's incoming phone line is down, and may be down for a while, if not forever. We can call out, no one can call in. The prob has been caused by my colleague, kind of. When AT&T disconnected the office phone their guys said they couldn't hook the line to the house because it had to be trenched and protected with conduit. Sooooooo, Mr. Fixit hooked the line to the house by tacking it to the fence and wrapping the junctions in, wait for it, sandwich bags. Which have, of course, collapsed.

THE UPSHOT? Since we don't get many incoming calls anyway, other than the occasional name change or fic biz legal ad request, why not go to a cheapo cell phone whose number we would advertise, thus freeing ourselves, at least partially, from AT&T, although we still need AT&T for our computers. But we've had the same telephone number for fifty years, so we'll be long gone by the time our readers master a new number, as we contact those left behind by Ouija. We have other ideas about restoring the incoming line, none involving anybody who actually knows what they're doing, but in the meantime, don't call us, we'll call you.

A RESIDENT of Signal Ridge told me that phones were out in his area for several weeks until, frustrated with AT&T's lack of response, he called, of all people, Assemblyman Jim Wood. Wood's Ukiah office, that is. Wood himself is probably available only to persons representing the grander interests, especially those bearing cash-money. Anyway, two days later phone service was restored to Signal Ridge, whether through Wood's rep or, my informant speculates, AT&T found an older tech guy who knows how to fix the old equipment in the more remote pockets of Mendocino County.

THE SCHOOLS, at least the ones here in Boonville, are beating the bushes for substitute teachers. You must be a collitch gradjit, pass a simple test, and be felony free, and next thing you know you're standing in front of 20 or so young people in a mutually incomprehending standoff. 

I HAD a teaching job on a substitute basis once at San Luis Obispo Jr. High, taking the position out of pure economic desperation. As I recall I was the only applicant — must have been the only applicant because I had zero interest in that line of work and remember fearing that my lack of enthusiasm for the position would exclude me. But I was hired on the spot. 

THE SUPERINTENDENT was obviously desperate. “The important thing is to keep them from roaming the halls.” Them? Why would “them” be roaming the halls when school was in session? It turned out that “them” had driven their regular teacher so far around the bend that when the fire department arrived to break down the classroom door she'd barricaded from inside, she was topless and dancing on her desk, on which rested what was left of a fifth of whiskey. The little savages who'd tormented the poor thing into her psychotic break were, of course, jubilant and were still talking about it when I assumed the broken reins. “You shoulda seen it, Mr. Anderson…” Etc.

THE SCHOOL YEAR had begun in September, my predecessor had wigged out in early October, Kennedy was assassinated the third week in November, and an early Christmas holiday soon ended the semester and set me free. I'd kept “them” from “roaming the halls,” but pedagogically it was a wash for “them” but instructive for me, in that I learned to appreciate people who could do this thankless job, and it taught me to avoid the profession ever after, all though I did teach in the Peace Corps in an intense British context where the students jumped to their feet at my morning appearance chorusing a genuinely respectful, “Good morning, Mr. Anderson.” 

THESE STUDENTS had to pass rigorous exams that were sent off to England to be graded. I was shocked how difficult the tests were, and not surprised that only a small number of students went on to the next levels. Biggest discipline prob? Curfew. The students, boarders most of them, would stay up all night studying before exams if they weren't suppressed. The feral packs I'd kept from roaming the halls in San Luis Obispo were, in their way, interesting in their natural Americano anarchy that would soon be pounded out of them, but the Borneo students were like so many automatons in whom I stuffed irrelevant information devised by imperial Englishmen, including the History of the British Commonwealth. I told my captives, “This is how it works; you get the common, they get the wealth.” Nope, had to deliver it straight, but the smart ones laughed.

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CATCH OF THE DAY, November 30, 2021

Brown, Bucio, Degurse, Elliott

EDWIN BROWN-KUHN, Beaverton, Oregon/Ukiah. DUI.

ANDRES BUCIO-ARTEAGA, Willits. DUI.

NATHAN DEGURSE, Willits. Domestic battery.

TIMOTHY ELLIOTT, Covelo. Forging/altering vehicle registration.

Franklin, Holberg, Marks, Munoz

JOE FRANKLIN, Los Banos/Ukiah. Failure to appear.

MATTHJEW HOLBERG, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

JOHN MARKS JR., Ukiah. Probation revocation.

RACHELLE MUNOZ, Covelo. DUI, failure to appear, probation revocation.

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ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY

Pinochle is my family card game, three generations back. Though that is beginning to age out with some of the now-middle-aged youngins.

Card games are valuable, yet sadly in decline in the “whatever I want…now” digital age.

I know many would see fantasy football as a waste of time…but it’s good for keeping in contact with old friends, and also gives you a chance to jab em in the ribs now and again in good fun.

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WILL TWITTER BECOME AN OCEAN OF SUCK?

The resignation of Jack Dorsey is the latest plot point in the story of the Internet's transformation, from democratizing tool to instrument of elite control

by Matt Taibbi

Jack Dorsey, the extend-o-bearded CEO who co-founded Twitter and whose fame grew with that of his increasingly powerful platform during the Trump years, resigned today. His departure is the latest plot point in a long-developing Internet tragicomedy, which has seen what was supposed to be a historically democratizing technological tool transformed into a dystopian force for censorship and control. The departure of Dorsey, the rare CEO who not only has a conscience but appears to consult it more than once every few years, is bad news for those who already had complaints about the company, which during his tenure came to occupy a central role in what’s left of American intellectual culture.

Twitter under Dorsey suffered from working too well. Specifically, society responded to Donald Trump’s Tweet-driven 2016 presidential campaign as if it revealed a defect in the platform that needed fixing when actually Trump’s election was proof that Twitter was working much as intended. Our political establishment just wasn’t looking for that sort of functionality. 

The original concept of Twitter was egalitarian, flattening, and iconoclastic: “To give everyone the power to create and share ideas, instantly, without barriers.” That mantra fit with then-CEO Dick Costolo’s 2010 claim that “We’re the free speech wing of the free speech party.”

Prior to 2016, elite mouthpieces bragged about acting as gatekeepers to political power. Someone like then-ABC writer Mark Halperin could write boastful pieces about how a “Gang of 500” in Washington really decided the presidency. These were “campaign consultants, strategists, pollsters, pundits, and journalists who make up the modern-day political establishment,” as the New Yorker put it. When political debates were held, a handful of analysts on television told you who won. We, reporters, told you who was “electable” and who wasn’t, and people mostly listened, even if “electability” was a crock that mostly measured levels of corporate donor approval. 

Then came 2016. Trump didn’t get the big Republican donor money (it went to Jeb Bush), he didn’t get the support of his party’s bureaucracy (which at various times pulled out stops to try to “derail” his candidacy for the nomination), and even conservative media locked arms against him early in the race (the National Review published an unprecedented “Conservatives Against Trump” mega-piece featuring a slew of famed mouthpieces, who aimed to forestall the “crisis for conservatism” Trump’s presence threatened). Trump throughout his political career benefited from free corporate media coverage, but by the time of his first nomination, he had universally negative editorial treatment in mainstream media and even serious detractors on stations like Fox. 

Once, that would have been fatal to a politician, which is why Nate Cohn could write with confidence in the New York Times that Trump had “just about no chance” to win the Republican nomination in 2016 — because, he said without embarrassment, it is “the party elites who traditionally decide nomination contests.” Such commentators didn’t figure on the power of the Internet, and especially Twitter. 

Trump didn’t need the news media to amplify his message. He was expressing himself in a way that defied contextualization, on a Twitter account that essentially became the country’s most-followed media network. Between January 2015 and January 2016, Trump’s number of followers doubled, but beyond that, the average number of retweets went from 79 to 2,201, which as Politico noted, meant that his power of dissemination increased by a factor of 28 in that single year. Twitter’s unique ability to exponentially increase the messaging force of a single individual had never been dealt with by institutional America before.

One of the first things I wrote about Trump was about his unique knack for the platform:

“Trump will someday be in the Twitter Hall of Fame. His fortune-cookie mind – restless, confrontational, completely lacking the shame/fact filter, monosyllabic, and rarely asleep when it should be – is perfectly engineered for the medium.”

Whether he was being dumb or smart, petty or cutting, incoherent or inscrutable, Trump had a way of expressing himself that automatically gave his tweets superior reach to news stories about his tweets. This put him permanently ahead of the news cycle. Even just misspelling a basketball star’s name while stepping over a few racial decorum lines created fractal-like ripples of unpredictable headlines:

“Donald J. Trump: Dwayne Wade’s cousin was just shot and killed walking her baby in Chicago Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!”

With this power, a politician was now able to communicate directly with voters, and even the collective displeasure of the entire self-described political establishment could not stuff that genie back in the bottle. Moreover, Twitter itself now decided things like who won debates. Pundits were often reduced to reporting the platform’s mood, in place of the previous practice of telling populations how to feel.

People will focus on the fact that it was bad bad Donald Trump who got elected that year, but that was really incidental. The real problem Trump represented for elite America had less to do with his political beliefs than the unapproved manner of his rise. Twitter, seen as a co-conspirator in this evil, became a target of establishment reprisal after Trump’s win.

It’s no coincidence that the once-pleasant (or at least interesting) experience of Twitter became a troll-infested, anxiety-ridden hell after 2016, thanks to everything from a surge in bots to the explosion of outrage campaigns which made saying anything remotely controversial a terrifying and miserable prospect for anyone with a job. After 2016, campaign journalists who lost influence to decide presidential races took revenge by enforcing conformity of message within their own ranks, on Twitter. A platform designed to enhance discussion now became more of a social policing mechanism, earth’s version of the sneering opera hall in Anna Karenina. The main change involved moderation. The onetime gateway to unrestrained speech came under constant assault from politicians on both sides of the aisle: conservatives accused Dorsey of liberal bias, while Democrats pushed the firm to enact ever-stricter controls on speech, first as a bulwark against Russian “disinformation,” then later against disinformation generally, then finally against Trump himself. 

The company at first tried to enact compromise procedures instead of full-on speech policing, like warning labels and limits of retweets, but by 2020, Twitter couldn’t help but become an increasingly regulated environment. It crossed a major censorship rubicon when it limited access to a New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop last fall. Even before that moment, some of us in the journalism business knew Dorsey as the atypical executive who’d reach out and ask for input on speech issues, over which he’d increasingly seemed to agonize. After the Post story, Dorsey opened up about how conflicted he was, apologizing for the laptop fiasco and blaming poor “communication” for the paradigm-shifting suppression of a relevant news story during an election campaign:

“Jack Dorsey: Our communication around our actions on the @nypost article was not great. And blocking URL sharing via tweet or DM with zero context as to why we’re blocking: unacceptable.” 

Propagandists ran a hell of a game on people like Dorsey. After fiascoes caused by official lies like the WMD affair, no one in government called for tighter regulation of media or the Internet, or told the executives of private communications firms they had blood on their hands. WMDs, after all, were approved disinformation. The unapproved variety, in the form of, say, anything Trump thought, inspired a different reaction. People like Dorsey were now told by Senators and other figures they had responsibility to prevent “misinformation” and “harm” in ways no one else had ever been asked to assume. The message was hammered everywhere, so pervasively that it permeated the ranks of firms like Twitter, where employees began to push their bosses even harder to accept what was, in essence, more outside control of their company. 

After the January 6th events, Dorsey came under even more fire from within, receiving a letter from Twitter employees that read in part: “We play an unprecedented role in civil society and the world’s eyes are upon us… Our decisions this week will cement our place in history, for better or worse.” Dorsey acceded and shut down Trump’s account. The move took place among other under-publicized actions by tech firms that spoke to an increasingly organized, top-down system of corporatized speech restraints, like the moves by Apple and Google to bully Parler into tightening up its discourse codes. 

It’s impossible to predict what will happen after Dorsey’s departure, but most speech advocates saw him as someone who pushed back against some of the crazier demands for censorship. Even though there are already some absurd overreactions to new CEO Parag Agrawal based on misreads of 11-year-old tweets, there are statements that do give cause for concern, like a Technology Review interview from last year in which he said things like, “We attempt to not adjudicate truth, we focus on potential for harm.” Dorsey seemed anxious to limit the company’s speech interventions to things like electoral fraud and health misinformation, but aggressive censors can make harm mean almost anything.

In the end, Twitter’s explosive growth has forced it to embrace something like the opposite of its original mission. It’s not an accident that the site now seems significantly overrepresented by upscale, monoculture-worshipping pseudo-intellectuals (seemingly every working journalist has an account, and certainly every censoriously woke one does). Like the Internet generally, instead of a machine for speech without “barriers,” Twitter is becoming, precisely, a mechanism for tightened elite control over expression, a thought-policed platitude sanctuary. Dorsey tweeted Sunday night that he loves Twitter. It’s fair today to wonder if he loves where it’s headed.

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Salesman having his motorised roller skates filled up in 1961. He has a single horsepower air-cooled engine strapped to his back and holds a clutch, accelerator and engine cut-off switch in his hand. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp)

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NOSTALGIA

by Sigred Nunez

Now that we’re no longer stuck in corona time, that everlasting present where the days all seemed to bleed into one another, everyone is looking ahead. Places to go, people to see: everyone is full of plans.

But already you hear words of nostalgia about the pandemic. As in a news program I saw. Hospital staff who recall the brutal intensity, how they’d never known a greater sense of purpose, or camaraderie, and how, like soldiers in wartime, they’d never felt more alive. People who discovered blessings in lockdown, in restricted routines that forced them to reassess their sense of values and how they should live. Some say they would not have wanted to miss the awesome feeling of living through an historic moment, of bearing witness to a once-in-a-century event. The cacophonic evening celebrations of healthcare workers. The twenty-dollar bills in the tip jar. The hand-sewn masks and the home-baked bread. The purer air. The calm of abandoned streets.

That everything that was and is no more is to be mourned is an unsettling idea, but what other explanation can there be for the persistence of this kind of emotion? And it’s this yearning, I think, that is partly – perhaps even mostly – responsible for why we get so much wrong, for why memory is so easily overruled by fiction, and why it can be so hard, no matter how we struggle, to get at the truth of our lives.

I wanted to try an experiment: find a bottle of April Violets, which I haven’t smelled since girlhood, and see what happened when I smelled it again. I couldn’t recall seeing it on sale anywhere lately, but then, since I haven’t worn any kind of scent in a very long time, I hadn’t looked. What with the lockdown, I wasn’t about to go searching in stores, but I figured I could order a bottle online.

But it turns out the original fragrance no longer exists. The company that made it discontinued it some years ago and replaced it with another, also called April Violets, a change that has been met with considerable disappointment. Don’t be fooled, customers warn. It is not the same. It is not the perfume of old!

According to several complaints, the new brand not only doesn’t smell as good, it is also not as strong. It does not seem to have occurred to these customers that in fact the matter might not be with the scent but rather with their sense of smell. Hearing, vision, sense of smell – all are known to grow weaker with age. (Loss of smell: now thought to be another possible herald of dementia.)

Those too young ever to have known the original April Violets appear to be happy with the new one. Not that I was tempted to order a bottle. Needless to say, for the experiment to work, only the perfume of old will do.

(London Review of Books)

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SUNDAY IN THE PARK

I never met Stephen Sondheim but I did have the chance to watch him close up. My sister was a member of the original cast of Company and she snuck me into a few rehearsals. I watched Hal Prince direct and Sondheim talking things over. It was Sondheim’s first show of his own and it was a great success and is about to be revived again. For a few years Sondheim and Prince had almost a show a year and I made a sort of tradition of going to previews on New Year’s Eve. That way I saw a preview of Sunday in the Park with George. At one point the Seurat painting is shown in a giant projection and the song that accompanies it describes all the images. One line goes: ‘That’s the puddle where the poodle did a piddle.’ This is so clever that the audience applauded. People who knew Sondheim told me that the song that was closest to him was ‘Anyone Can Whistle’, where he asks: ‘Why can’t I?’ Tom Lehrer told me that in their youth he was Sondheim’s counsellor at a summer camp in Maine. They did not have much to say to each other. They both have much to say to us.

(Jeremy Bernstein)

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I GOT A LOT OF LETTERS over the years asking what the title “Send In The Clowns” means and what the song's about; I never thought it would be in any way esoteric. I wanted to use theatrical imagery in the song, because the character singing it is an actress, but it's not supposed to be a circus… It's a theater reference meaning “if the show isn't going well, let's send in the clowns”; in other words, “let's do the jokes.” I always want to know, when I'm writing a song, what the end is going to be, so “Send in the Clowns” didn't settle in until I got the notion, “Don't bother, they're here”, which means that “We are the fools.” As I think of it now, the song could have been called “Send in the Fools.” I knew I was writing a song in which the character Desirée is saying, “aren't we foolish?” or “aren't we fools?" Well, a synonym for fools is clowns, but “Send in the Fools” doesn't have the same ring to it.

— Steven Sondheim

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'LOOKING FOR THE GOOD WAR’ Says Our Nostalgia for World War II Has Done Real Harm

by Jennifer Szalai

Toward the end of “Looking for the Good War,” Elizabeth D. Samet’s discerning new book about the gauzy mythology that has shrouded the historical reality of World War II, she reminds us of the 2019 speech that then-President Trump gave at Normandy, on the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Some listeners were so surprised by the solemnity of Trump’s words that they eagerly welcomed it as evidence that he was donning the mantle of dignified statesman. But Samet, a professor of English at West Point who has previously written about teaching the literature of warfare <https://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/04/books/review/Pinsky-t.html>, refuses to grade on a curve.

She briskly enumerates the speech’s jumble of platitudes — “‘Great Crusade’ (Eisenhower), ‘Freedom’s Altar’ (a Civil War song), ‘consecrated to history’ (bastardized Lincoln), ‘new frontiers’ (misappropriated Kennedy), ‘heat of battle,’ ‘fires of hell,’ ‘Nazi fury,’ ‘awesome power,’ ‘breathtaking scale,’ ‘cherished alliance,’ ‘undying gratitude’ (cliches) and ‘tough guy’ (ad-lib).” What Samet calls our “tin-eared age of tweets” can make it harder to distinguish soaring oratory from flimsy bombast, but “most of the sentences won’t bear the weight of careful reading,” she writes.

And “careful reading,” as Samet provocatively (and persuasively) argues, can in fact be a matter of life or death. Glib treatments of World War II have done real harm, she says, distorting our understanding of the past and consequently shaping how we approach the future. As “the last American military action about which there is anything like a positive consensus,” World War II is “the good war that served as prologue to three-quarters of a century of misbegotten ones.”

Her book is therefore a work of unsparing demystification — and there is something hopeful and even inspiring in this. Like the cadets she teaches at West Point, civilians would do well to see World War II as something other than a buoyant tale of American goodness trouncing Nazi evil. Yes, she says up front, American involvement in the war was necessary. But she maintains that it’s been a national fantasy to presume that “necessary” has to mean the same thing as “good.”

Among the most credulous offenders, she says, have been figures like Stephen Ambrose and Steven Spielberg, who came together for the HBO mini-series of Ambrose’s “Band of Brothers” — an ode to American might and pristine intentions. Ambrose may have been an academically trained historian, but he seemed to pride himself on being a hagiographer. “I was 10 years old when the war ended,” he once recalled. “I thought the returning veterans were giants who had saved the world from barbarism. I still think so. I remain a hero worshiper.”

Not that Ambrose’s heroes would have necessarily recognized themselves in his beatific portraits. Samet quotes a memoir by the Shakespeare scholar Alvin Kernan, who joined the Navy in 1941 in order to escape a dire economic situation in rural Wyoming. “We were children still,” he wrote, “and, like all children, fascinated with killing.” Such children may have fought valiantly, Samet writes, “but their motivations were hardly lofty, their experience less than ennobling.”

The extreme depravity of the Nazis would retrospectively sanctify the “inglorious work” of the Allied effort, but Samet points out that even after American entrance into the war, liberating the Jews was never a priority. “Why We Fight,” a series of propaganda films that Frank Capra made between 1942 and 1945, made no mention of the Nazis’ systematic attempt to exterminate the Jews, even though the American government learned of the Final Solution” as early as the summer of 1942 <https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/the-riegner-telegram>.

The United States only entered the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor — and even then, Samet says, contemporary observers remarked on “a general American indifference to the fact that the world was on fire.” The war in the Pacific was “begun in revenge and complicated by bitter racism,” she writes. She quotes a Marine’s memoir recounting how Americans’ antipathy toward the Nazis couldn’t compare to their “burning hatred” for the Japanese. “Japanese were looked upon as something subhuman and repulsive,” the journalist Ernie Pyle wrote, “the way some people feel about cockroaches or mice.” Surveying the records of the era, Samet contrasts this dehumanization with the portrayal of European fascists, who were more typically described as “gangsters.”

Despite the swift ascent of the “good war” mythology, there was a moment after World War II when a more complicated picture persisted — and traces of it continue to this day, even if an “open, ambivalent, reflective mode of remembrance” has been largely obscured, Samet writes. She seems to have seen every noir film featuring a disillusioned veteran who struggles to adjust to the postwar American dispensation. But she also shows how Hollywood was quick to overwhelm the culture with its “habitual optimism.” The 1947 movie “The Hucksters,” for instance, begins with a veteran returning to the advertising business only to find himself feeling disgusted by it; the happily-ever-after ending comes not with him rejecting the industry but with his resolve to “sell good things, things that people should have, and sell them with dignity and taste.”

The fall of Saigon in 1975 may have temporarily hobbled the American strut of exceptionalism and invincibility, but the end of the Cold War and the beginning of Operation Desert Storm worked to restore some American confidence. Yet as good as such confidence can feel, it can also be deadly, Samet writes, feeding a “pernicious American sentimentality” that “short-circuits reason.”

She ends with a chapter on the old Lost Cause mythology of the Civil War, which we have turned into “a kind of theme park,” suffused with symbolism and nostalgia, ignoring the expansionist wars this mythology later enabled. The country’s imperialist ambitions in the late-19th and early-20th centuries were promoted as a nationalist project that would finally unite the North and South against a foreign enemy.

But Samet is maybe too insistent that the truth of the Civil War has been irrevocably lost to fanciful delusion. The myth, she says, is “so resistant to all subsequent attempts to undo it, the removal of a few statues and the renaming of a few buildings notwithstanding.” This seems to me a pat way of playing down what’s been happening over the last several years. Dismantling a few statues may not amount to a wholesale revision of historical memory, but to write it off as extraneous detail is to submit to another abstraction, one where the edges of Samet’s nuanced argument are tidier than they need to be. As she herself puts it, “Wars are seething struggles, not object lessons.”

Follow Jennifer Szalai on Twitter: @jenszalai <https://twitter.com/jenszalai>.

’Looking for the Good War: American Amnesia and the Violent Pursuit of Happiness’

By Elizabeth D. Samet 354 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $28.

24 Comments

  1. Craig Stehr December 1, 2021

    It’s 2:56 in the morning and downtown Garberville, CA is full o’ fog and nobody’s there. Just the glow of a gas station on Redwood Drive, waiting for the next customer. Non-attachment is easy here! ;-))

  2. chuck dunbar December 1, 2021

    “Opinion: If The Supreme Court Throws Out ‘Roe v. Wade,’ It Will Tear The Country Apart”

    Columnist Eugene Robinson, on the eve of this critical hearing, makes a pragmatic, reasonable plea for not overturning this important piece of law:

    “Roe v. Wade is an important piece of the duct tape that holds this fractious nation together, and it would be a grievous error for the antiabortion majority on the Supreme Court to rip it away…
    I see Roe as unifying rather than divisive: It makes a yes-no decision. It sets a baseline that some of us cannot abide but that most of us applaud or can live with. It says that, yes, the Constitution, in its words and its penumbra, does protect a woman’s fundamental right to terminate her pregnancy.
    Like all of our constitutionally protected freedoms, the right to choose can be restricted, but not taken away. That has been the status quo for nearly five decades, and the nation has muddled through. But if Roe is reversed — if the court rules, as its most conservative justices have argued, that no protected right to reproductive choice exists — then the political cold war over abortion will flare immediately into a roaring blaze.
    If states such as Texas pass laws that effectively eliminate all abortions, those with the means will travel to other states to terminate their pregnancies. Many poor people will risk their health by seeking illegal abortions. Some doctors will most likely risk imprisonment. There will be intense pressure for pro-choice federal legislation, and abortion will be a hot-button issue in every congressional district.
    As if our politics needed more heat.
    Roe will never please everyone, but it has served the country well. I fear this Supreme Court is foolish enough to throw it away.”
    Washington Post, 11/29/21

    • George Hollister December 1, 2021

      Putting the details of the shoulds, and shouldn’ts of the abortion issue aside, Roe vs. Wade is the sliver in a festering wound that does not need to be. Like so many national issues, views on abortion vary widely depending on the state or region. The national law doesn’t work. It would be better, not perfect, if states decided what abortion laws should, or shouldn’t be. We would also get along a lot better.

      • Harvey Reading December 1, 2021

        Screw the ignorant hicks. They have women who want abortions, too. Abortions are the exclusive business of the women who want to undergo the procedure. It is NOT the business of a bunch of Christian fascists and howling, ignorant, big-bellied conservafascists who want to impose their nonsensical beliefs on us all.

        • Cotdbigun December 1, 2021

          Whoa whoa there Mr.Harvey, we’re a tad to full of it this lovely morning, aren’t we ? Just for your info, oh righteous one , I have seen medium-bellied and flat-bellied hicks a lot more than your pals, the big-bellied ones! I’m not using “hick” in a derogatory way mind you, just being informal. Have a great day.

          • Harvey Reading December 1, 2021

            You surely are “…full of it…” and have illustrated my point precisely.

    • Marmon December 1, 2021

      RE: ABORTION POLITICS

      I found it interesting that no one argued the constitutionality of Roe v Wade today, most likely because there is none. Justice Kavanaugh pressed hard several times that the Court should maintain neutrality and leave the abortion issue up to the people, meaning Congress.

      I don’t know where you get your news from Chuck, but I listened to the entire hearing before expressing my thoughts. That’s something I try to do every chance I get. Waiting for the media to tell me what to think is not an option for me. I’ll use the Rittenhouse debacle as an example.

      I agree with Kavenaugh, this case shouldn’t even be before the highest court in law, because there is no law to be examined.

      Marmon

      • Harvey Reading December 1, 2021

        You seem to enjoy listening to, and reading, material spouted by fascist liars, intent on imposing their “way” on us all.

      • Harvey Reading December 1, 2021

        By the way, a majority of people in the country support abortion and other rights for women. That’s a large part why the scumball, pompous republofascists are trying so hard to disenfranchise people who disagree with them. They will fail. There may be blood, but the scum will fail…bet on it. And, this time around, there will not be “forgiveness” for the traitors.

        • Marmon December 1, 2021

          RE: LIKE LEMMINGS TO THE SEA

          The majority of the people live on the Coast, why should handful of coastal states control the majority of our County’s geography? Abortion laws should be a State issue. If people from normal states want to kill babies they can all move to the coastal bluffs, like Lemmings to the sea.

          Marmon

          • Harvey Reading December 1, 2021

            Because that’s where most of the people are. And, most of the people support women’s rights, including abortion. Don’t like democracy? Too effen bad. We don’t like racism, sexism, and minority rule. There are more of us than there are of you. Y’all and your orange hog hero can be deported. Try any civil war crap, and you will be crushed. Huge bellies don’t win wars…

            • Harvey Reading December 1, 2021

              And, take your states’ rights and shove ’em where the moon don’t shine!

  3. George Hollister December 1, 2021

    Matt Taibbi’s piece today is unusually well written. I have complained about his lack of brevity in the past, but I now see he’s a good writer.

  4. Eli Maddock December 1, 2021

    Upshot?
    You can keep your phone number by having it transferred to a cell company. And / or using a voice over ip (VOIP) device.
    Good luck and to h#%* with att!

    • Bruce Anderson December 1, 2021

      Thanks for the tip, Mr. Maddock.

  5. Harvey Reading December 1, 2021

    “It strains credulity…”

    No, it does NOT. It is simply another example (one of many) of how we commoners exist only to enrich the already wealthy scum of the planet. The yuppies who serve the robber barons in exchange for great wages and benefits have been asleep at the switch (in their gated “communities”) for far too long to see what is obvious and commonplace. They are well represented by lyin’ biden and his grotesque right-wing party that calls itself democratic and wastes many empty words in a show of pretending to serve working people.

  6. Marmon December 1, 2021

    RE: LESSONS FROM THE AVA

    “Twitter is becoming, precisely, a mechanism for tightened elite control over expression, a thought-policed platitude sanctuary.”

    Marmon

    • Chuck Wilcher December 1, 2021

      Jump onto the fledgling Trump Social network and your censorship is guaranteed if you criticize Mr. Twice Impeached.

      Thought police, indeed.

      • Mark Scaramella December 1, 2021

        Yep. And Limbaugh’s call screener was required to avoid letting callers on the air who said they disagreed with the dirigible of drivel.

  7. Margot Lane December 1, 2021

    OK, I KNOW I’m going to be stoned for saying this, but, am I the only person in the world who doesn’t get Sondheim? I was struggling to listen on KZYX & other than West Side Story and Send in the Clowns it just seems like words with music kinda stranded around here & there. …Give me Eric Idle any day.

    • Marshall Newman December 1, 2021

      No you are not. Sondheim’s wordplay can be fun, but a lot of his stuff leaves me underwhelmed. You can have Eric Idle also, since I haven’t hear enough of his tunes to make a judgement.

      • Mark Scaramella December 1, 2021

        Pop music seldom rises to overwhelming lyricicsm. Sondheim was good in the context of what he was doing. So was his tutor Oscar Hammerstein. (And don’t even bring up today’s ooh-babybaby crap.) But very few had the polish of Cole Porter at his best, who, for example, first wrote:
        I get no kick in a plane
        I shouldn’t care for those nights in the air
        That the fair Mrs. Lindbergh goes through
        But I get a kick out of you.

        But changed it to:
        I get no kick in a plane
        Flying too high with some guy in the sky
        Is my idea of nothing to do.
        But I get a kick out of you.

        Or, more provocatively at the time:

        Some get a kick from cocaine
        I’m sure that if
        I took even one sniff
        That would bore me terrif—
        ically, too
        Yet, I get a kick out of you

    • Lazarus December 1, 2021

      Songwriters get their props, in some cases, because of who sings the songs.
      Laz

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