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Mendocino County Today: Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Warm Sun | Plant Sale | JDSF Offer | Mom Gifts | Budget Cuts | MCSO Careers | Flea Market | Log Skidding | Ed Notes | Hutchins Support | Mural Celebration | Underground Bill | Yesterday's Catch | Ukraine | McGovern Party | Proper Goal | LadyQuake | Parental Interference | Footwarmer | Flagrant Reputation | Reliable Foe | Elite/Prole | Consortium News | Little River | PayPal Confiscation | August Spies | Hawthorne Blossom | Bacon Book | Quake Detector | For Reinette | McMenus | Supreme Decision | Castlebar Girls | What Power

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DRY AND WARM conditions will continue today. Rain and cooler temperatures will return on Thursday and persist through the weekend, mainly across Del Norte and northern Humboldt counties. (NWS)

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CAL FIRE SEEKS AGREEMENT WITH ACTIVISTS, TRIBE ON LOGGING In Jackson Demonstration State Forest

by Mary Callahan

Logging could resume soon in disputed areas of the sprawling Jackson Demonstration State Forest in Mendocino County under a compromise proposed by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in hopes of defusing community opposition to redwood cutting operations.

Cal Fire’s proposition includes removing 75 acres from the most hotly contested commercial timber harvest plan area so community and tribal stakeholders can provide input on forest management there.

State Forest Program Manager Kevin Conway also has arranged with timber cutters to shorten a logging road to spare an enormous, century-old redwood that tree-sitters named the Gemini Tree during demonstrations last year.

Cal Fire also is designating protections for especially vigorous, older redwoods in different parts of the logging plan areas. Those trees would be protected from harvest in perpetuity to advance carbon sequestration in the forest, though other large trees would be cut instead.

Public reception to the plan, unveiled Monday during a field meeting of the Jackson State Demonstration Forest Advisory Group, remains uncertain. Details were still being relayed to stakeholders and activists who did not attend the all-day session.

The potential timing of logging activities on various parts of the nearly 50,000-acre landscape is squishy, too.

But Cal Fire wants to gain enough public buy-in to green light stalled timber harvest plans that have been suspended because of seasonal limitations or the threat of direct action by environmentalists.

The agency then hopes to review and revise the overall management plan for the entire state-owned forest. Most of that work would be done by the citizen-filled advisory group. The largest of nine California demonstration forests, the Jackson forest extends east from the central Mendocino Coast toward Willits.

Cal Fire and state Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot also remain in regular consultation with the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians over comanagement of the forest and concerns about sacred ancestral sites at the eastern edge of the forest north of Highway 20.

Conway said any renewed logging in Jackson would depend on progress with the tribe, led by Chairman Michael Hunter, in addition to favorable weather conditions and availability of logging crews.

“We want to make sure whatever we propose as a path forward that they would have input on things they would like to see in the plans,” Conway said. “We are in pretty intense discussions with them. We are intent on ending with a resolution that is satisfactory to both parties.”

Conway and Cal Fire have been wrestling for more than a year with growing opposition to logging in the forest, which was established in 1949 to restore redwood timberland and to demonstrate innovative, sustainable forest techniques.

The opposition was sparked by a plan to log timber, including some very large redwood trees, in a 533-acre area near the coastal community of Caspar. The so-called Caspar 500 timber harvest plan is closer to residential areas and public access roads than more remote areas that have been logged in the past. The area is also heavily used for hiking and mountain bikers.

As logging plans became public, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration was promoting the protection of public lands for carbon sequestration in the fight against climate change. The administration was also negotiating with California Indian tribes for access to native lands and comanagement of those under title to the state.

Activists began calling for broader, more urgent mission for the sprawling forest. Those calls translated into direct action last spring, when logging commenced in the forest.

The movement forced Conway to suspend action in the Caspar 500, and interfered with operations, as well, in the Red Tail plan closer to Fort Bragg, though it was about 60% complete when done when crews left the forest for the winter.

Another timber harvest plan area, Soda Gulch, has meanwhile taken on greater importance because of archaeological sites that many activists fear are insufficiently surveyed and protected. Very little of that plan has been logged, Conway said.

Critics of commercial logging in the forest at least welcomed the willingness of Cal Fire and related agencies to take their concerns into account.

But many said they didn’t think it went far enough to maximize the potential of the public landscape for climate mitigation, and said the would hold out for a complete moratorium on timber cutting to transform the forest to a massive carbon storage bank.

“We want a moratorium,” said longtime Albion environmentalist Linda Perkins, 81. “Otherwise we’re piece-mealing it. And that’s not what we want. We want a new mandate. We want a comprehensive look at what Cal Fire is doing.

“The activists are not going to step back from this,” Perkins said.

Hunter said he just hopes there’s enough time for full government-to-government consultations before cutting starts.

“They seem to be going in a positive direction,” he said Tuesday. “My fear is logging starting before Secretary Crowfoot, Cal Fire and Coyote Valley have an opportunity to work out enough specific details, before protests start. And I worry that we may not have enough time.”

However, Charlie Schneider, a cyclist and recreational representative to the advisory group, said Cal Fire is “walking a fine line” hoping “for some kind of agreement to be able to move forward with these plans that are already sold.”

“I’m super optimistic,” he said. “I hope people can see it as some middle ground we can work off of. I feel like it’s a big win for activists.”

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BUDGET CUTS FOR THEE, COMFY BUSINESS AS USUAL FOR ME

by Mark Scaramella

THE SUPERVISORS say the County faces a $2 million deficit this fiscal year. The county's leadership spent several desultory hours on Tuesday wondering what to do about it. Do they have to give the Parks department $1.6 million? Supervisor Ted Williams wondered if the County gets a “return on investment” for the nearly $600k of general fund they dole out to Visit Mendocino? (He later withdrew that question in the face of a generic Visit Mendo pushback saying that other counties promote themselves so Mendo must also.) Vehicle replacements? How about that couple hundred thou on West Company for “business development”? Can anything be done about the increasing cost of employee health care?

INTERIM CEO Darcie Antle insisted that the Departments have cut all they can. 

Williams: “We have to make some cuts somewhere.”

The deficit is mostly caused by the County’s irresponsible and contradictory approach to cannabis permitting. All the way back to 2017 we saw that the ambitious staffing plus everything that comes with it — vehicles, office space and so on would not be recovered over the long term. For a few years cannabis taxes produced $5 or $6 million, but a lot of that was “minimum” tax on non-growing growers and the early days when pot growing was still somewhat profitable. 

“We were living on cannabis,” said Williams, “and that is now over. It’s not coming back. We have lived on one-time revenue as if it would continue but instead spent it on staffing.”

Williams failed to mention that County bungling is a major reason “it’s not coming back.”

But is there really a deficit? 

There’s almost $17 million in Covid relief money yet to be allocated. There’s a $20 million reserve, a reserve that Supervisor Williams says is too small, covering only a few weeks of County spending. But, as usual, he’s mistaken and misstating the reserves to make things look worse than they are.

There are basically two kinds of reserves: Operating reserves which cover cash flow needs during the ups and downs of otherwise predictable but irregular revenues. And there’s General Fund reserves for unplanned expenses. Mendo has over $20 million in the latter. 

Sonoma County, with a much more mature and sensible budgeting process, makes the distinction quite clear. “The [SoCo] Board will maintain a minimum level of unassigned General Fund Reserve balance equal to 1/12 (8.3%) or 1 month of annual General Fund revenues.” And the Board “will strive to maintain a total unassigned General Fund Reserve balance equal to 1/6 or 2 months of annual General Fund operating revenues.”

Translation as it would apply to Mendocino County’s $84 million general fund: Mendo should keep a minimum of about $7 million and a target of about $14 million. 

Williams is conflating operating reserves with General Fund Reserves. Operating reserves are supposed to cover cash flow for budgeted expenses, including non-General Fund expenses. General Fund Reserves do not apply to State and Federal Grant money, the much larger part of the County’s spending. 

For all their training and access to information, you’d think they’d know the difference. But there’s no indication that anyone in Official Mendo (with the possible exception of the Auditor who we haven’t heard from since last year when the Board unilaterally consolidated her office with the Treasurer without a plan or budget or idea what it involved and over the objection of everyone involved except themselves. And which has not been planned for or budgeted as a consolidated department.)

Sonoma County also has a prudent accompanying reserve policy: “Anytime the Board authorizes drawdown of Reserves, staff will present a re-payment schedule which shall include the amount of state/federal reimbursements expected to be received.”

THEN we get to what was NOT discussed: Themselves and their overlarge executive staff. “Deputy CEOs” magically appear almost monthly lately, and nobody asks where the money for them will come from. Every meeting, there’s a new one introduced for this or that presentation with a new artificial specialty. Each one of those new Deputy CEO’s costs about $250k. 

In 2010 when the Board faced a more serious budget crunch, the first thing discussed [by a majority of the board] was their own salaries. Over the objection of “liberal” Supervisors Colfax and Smith, the other three Supervisors at least realized that voluntary, if modest, pay cuts, were in order if they were going to impose cuts on staff because it looks bad when you don’t impose some cuts on yourself. 

But not this crew. Not having any idea what to do, they sent the “deficit” question to a couple of ad hoc committees and staff to come up with a list of proposals they can rank next month. But since the listers are themselves and their staff, we doubt the list will include the Executive Office, the Supervisors, or County Counsel’s office.

They should at least take responsibility for their own failed cannabis permit program and cut the cannabis staff since there aren’t many new applications and many of the old ones have given up. If more cuts are necessary after that, then look at those covid relief funds and the over-large reserve. 

In a normal world, the Board would do whatever they can to keep from cutting operational departments that deliver services, however spotty they may be at times.

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ALBION FLEAS

More about Albion Flea Market: New vendors signing up, now we have a huge collection of baseball cards and memorabilia dating back to 1933, vintage Creel fishing basket well preserved, a Canon Cool-pix dig. camera...plus all the other great stuff listed on last week's listserv...come see us, May 14 and 15, up Albion Ridge, it's worth the drive!

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Camp A on Big River, 1902

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ED NOTES

I'LL KEEP his name out of it, but a long-time ava guy, deceased, had REACH insurance, the medical helicopter most people living in our far flung outback regard as necessary for medical emergencies. Our friend, in his last hours, got airlifted from Covelo to Willits, then on to the med center at St. Helena for heart surgery. And then he died.

COUPLE weeks later pro forma condolences arrive in the mail from REACH, amidst the so sorry messages from REACH is a bill for $88,000. But since our friend was paid up but had never used it, and paid up for his family, too, because he wanted everyone close to him covered, his son called REACH. “Maybe you sent us this bill in error because you didn't realize my father had insurance.” The REACH person says, “What we do is we send this bill in case there's any other insurance we can bill.”

OUR FRIEND had no other insurance but his family now fears that the medical ghouls will slap a creditor's lien on dad's modest estate. The son says, “Anyone paying for REACH insurance should know what they're paying for.” The family has also received a bill for dad's four days in ICU at St. Helena for $680,000 at $170,000 a day, plus separate bills from the anesthesiologist and everyone else who got a piece of the dying man before he was finally beyond the REACH of the most backwards, extortionate, dysfunctional medical system in the world.

HERE'S a question for hustlin' Ted Williams, “Favorite fiction, Ted?” I'd guess ‘The Fountainhead’ by Ayn Rand. I vaguely recall Williams describing his politics as libertarian, and if libertarians have read one book in their misguided lives it's something by the fascist crone.

GRANGE STALWART, Andy Jones, tells us someone broke into the Philo Grange hall over last weekend, breaking out several windows in search of what? Pancake batter?

USED to be the Anderson Valley had enough crime to warrant a resident deputy, albeit of a petty type. But for several years now there hasn't been much in the way of criminal activity — a few burglaries, the oafs plaguing Navarro with their drunken, drugged, four-wheel antics, an occasional domestic dispute. We have plenty of drug people but they keep it indoors. Deputy Squires and his successor, Deputy Craig Walker, seemed to know who was doing what without witnessing the act.

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MURAL GRAND OPENING: YOU’RE INVITED

Come celebrate the block-long local history mural in downtown Ukiah! Artist Lauren Sinnott painted it over the last 4 years, through fires and the pandemic. The mural is made up of 26 panels, each a mural in itself, illustrating the history of our region. There are over 200 portraits - come see if you recognize anyone!

Friday May 6 5-8pm at the mural, on the north wall of Ukiah Valley Conference Center at 200 S. School St.

Church St. between Oak and School will be closed to cars and open for fun. Light snacks and honey lemonade provided, as well as a treasure hunt to locate subjects and portraits.

Wine and beer courtesy of Frey Vineyards, Fetzer Vineyards, Ukiah Brewing Company.

Local band Easy Street will play, weather permitting.

Remarks 5:30 - 6pm

Lauren Sinnott

The whole project may be viewed at www.historymural.com.

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MCGUIRE INTRODUCES BILL TO FORCE UTILLITIES TO BURY LINES

by Jackson Guilfoil

On March 17, North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire introduced a bill that would force California’s power utilities to bury transmission and distribution lines in fire-prone zones underground.

Senate Bill 884 aims to expedite the undergrounding of 10,000 miles of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. utility lines. The bill would mandate performance metrics created by the California Public Utilities Commission with financial penalties for missing deadlines, and the utility would need to prove safety protocols are met prior to receiving a rate of return.

“I am so incredibly angry and frustrated at the lack of progress that PG&E has advanced on undergrounding their transmission and distribution. Year after year, there have been devastating fires caused by their antiquated and faulty equipment. And the time’s up. If PG&E won’t get the job done, the state will mandate that they do so,” McGuire said.

The bill also attempts to expedite underground construction by limiting local government approval or denial to 150 days, when it can ordinarily take two to four years, according to McGuire. There would also be a guaranteed 270-day judicial review in the event of a California Environmental Quality Act lawsuit against an undergrounding project, which can take several years before a final ruling.

The bill would force public utilities such as PG&E to exhaust the limit of federal funds available to them for these undergrounding projects — roughly $5 billion over the next five years — before passing the cost onto the ratepayer. Telecommunication companies would also be required to underground their utilities in the same trench.

“We saw this during the Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa, where hundreds of utility poles were burned up and individually and residents were unable to call 911 for help, so what this bill also does, it makes California’s telecommunication infrastructure much more resilient,” McGuire said.

PG&E did not respond to the Times-Standard’s requests for comment.

While McGuire named PG&E in statements to the Times-Standard, the bill itself only specifies electric utility companies, meaning that California’s other two massive power companies Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric would be subject to this bill, should it become a law, as well.

The bill is currently heading to the California Senate’s Energy Committee, then if it gets passed along, will be scrutinized by the Governance and Finance Committee.

“I think we’ve all had enough with the apologies. We’ve had enough of the fines and the hollow claims that PG&E will bury their lines. It’s time to hold them accountable and get these lines underground. I can’t stress this enough, I have great respect for the women and men who keep the lights on every day, but I don’t trust the lip service from the top, and that’s why we’re advancing this bill, once and for all. We’re going to hold PG&E accountable for their promises, and if they don’t meet their promises, then they’re going to face statutory consequences,” McGuire said.

(Eureka Times-Standard)

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CATCH OF THE DAY, May 3, 2022

Adame, Alvarez, Barnes, Blakesley

BRETT ADAME, Ukiah. County parole violation.

EDUARDO ALVAREZ, Ukiah. Battery, criminal threats, parole violation.

MICHAEL BARNES, Redwood Valley. Bringing controlled substance into jail.

DUSTIN BLAKESLEY, Ukiah. Failure to appear.

Bodwin, Dyer, Feliz

IVY BODWIN, Ukiah. Probation revocation.

GARRETT DYER, Fort Bragg. DUI.

RICHARD FELIZ JR., Redwood Valley. Probation revocation.

Flinton, Garcia, John

SEAN FLINTON, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol. (Frequent flyer.)

VALERIO GARCIA-LUNA, Los Angeles/Ukiah. DUI causing bodily injury.

KAREEM JOHN, Los Angeles/Ukiah. Fugitive from justice.

Lundy, Oresco, Rettig

JADEN LUNDY, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation.

DANNY ORESCO, Ukiah. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, probation revocation.

DONALD RETTIG, Covelo. Stolen vehicle, attempted vehicle theft, conspiracy, failure to appear.

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DAY 69, UKRAINE

Russian forces shelled Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv and devastated several towns in eastern Ukraine.

At least three civilians were killed in the Russian shelling of the city of Vuhledar in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian president’s office said. Some other areas of Donetsk were under constant fire and regional authorities were trying to evacuate civilians from front line areas, it said.

A Bayraktar drone operated by Ukraine destroyed two Russian Raptor-class patrol ships in the Black Sea, Ukraine’s military chief said.

Russia is planning to imminently “annex” the two eastern regions of Ukraine after failing to overthrow the government in Kyiv, a senior US official says.

More than 200 civilians are still holed up with fighters in a huge steel plant in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, the city’s mayor said.

Russia has not been able to take advantage, in Ukraine, of its more than decade-long military modernisation programme, the UK’s defence ministry has said. 

— Al Jazeera

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Jack Nicholson listens to Groucho Marx at a McGovern for President party in 1972. (I still have my McGovern pin.)

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A CEASEFIRE between the warring parties, a Russian withdrawal, a halt to arms shipments, a negotiated peace and an end to NATO. This is what the international left should be organizing around in regards to the Russia-Ukraine war. It shouldn’t be calling for stepped up arms shipments to Ukraine’s military or defending Moscow’s invasion. When all is said and done and this war is stopped, the most likely situation for the vast majority of Ukrainian working people will be one where their greatest enemy could well be the Ukrainian government. Likewise, if the war goes on long enough, the greatest enemy of the vast majority of Russian working people could well be their government. The oligarchs in both nations will still be oligarchs, while the Russian and Ukrainian people will bear the costs—human, financial, and otherwise—for the war. 

— Ron Jacobs

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“Oh, that’s just generations of women turning over in their graves.”

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SAY NO TO HALLMARK REALITY

Editor,

While we smugly berate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill in that state, the underlying motivation for parental control over curriculum and academic freedom proliferates — even here.

A recent news story covered by Bay Area media explained a furor among parents in San Francisco. It was aimed at a lesson plan that included hands-on touching of cotton plants to show how difficult picking was for African American slaves in the 1700s and 1800s. From my perspective, the point of the lesson was that picking things like strawberries or flowers is easy. Cotton, with sharp elements that endanger bare hands, is not.

When I was in fourth grade, in 1950s New England, my class had a similar hands-on demo. Chewing tobacco was also offered for kids to sample, which we did. It made us all sick, but a point was made. I remember telling my mom how cool school was that day. She smiled.

Today, I suspect that lesson would get a teacher fired. Education has been hijacked by overly concerned parents who are less interested in educating than protecting their precious children from harsh realities.

If we don’t teach kids to read, evaluate and discuss basic truths of history and culture, we are raising a generation of kids who reside in a “Hallmark card” reality of their parents’ creation. As a parent, grandparent and former teacher, I hold one truth: Happy talk is not a basis for curriculum.

The truth is that protecting our progeny from this necessary information is dangerous and smacks of authoritarianism. I encourage parental involvement, yes, but not parental interference.

Steve Pollock

San Rafael

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Inuit man warms his wife’s feet. Greenland, 1890's

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BAD RAP OR EARNED REP, DRAYMOND GREEN ADDS FLAGRANT BITE TO WARRIORS DEFENSE

by Ann Killion

MEMPHIS — This NBA city is starting to feel like a time-travel portal, first with flashbacks of the Warriors’ 2015 championship run, and now with memories of the 2016 playoffs.

You remember those. The Draymond Green playoffs?

Green learned early Monday that the forward’s flagrant 2 foul, controversially awarded and resulting in an ejection in the second quarter of Game 1, would not be downgraded. It stands.

“Shocking,” guard Stephen Curry said sarcastically.

Does this, Green was asked, remind him at all of 2016? That was when the Warriors’ chance for a consecutive title was derailed, in large part, because of Green’s suspension in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against Cleveland, the result of too many flagrant fouls. That punishment changed the outcome of the series and the course of NBA history.

“Every year feels the same,” Green said in response to the question. “Nothing changed my entire career.”

Well, not completely true. In 2016, Green did not rush back to his hotel room to record an “emergency pod” to give his side of the story. He did that Sunday night, doing a 14-minute podcast that, by Monday, had been viewed almost 700,000 times on YouTube.

On it, he said that after the whistle, he was “actually dumb enough to think I’m not going to get a flagrant 1. Talk about an idiot, look no further than Draymond Green himself.”

He wasn’t alone. Though many people thought it might have been a flagrant 1, most NBA observers didn’t think the foul deserved the flagrant-2 designation. But Green also lobbied hard on his own behalf and by the end of his podcast, he said he expected the penalty to be reduced.

It was not. Green now has two flagrant points. Two more and he will receive a one-game suspension.

Green and the Warriors must walk a tightrope not only through this series, but potentially two more series. Possibly for 20 more games.

Green, who has been known to go right up to the line without crossing it for much of his career, insisted he won’t change the way be plays.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “Because if I take the bite out of the way I play, we go home early and the (flagrant) points don’t matter anyway.”

Valid observation. The Warriors work, and win, in large part because of the way Green plays, and that became crystal clear while he was out with a back injury for much of this season. He’s everywhere, conducting traffic, directing defense, annoying opponents, talking trash, firing up his teammates.

His coaches and teammates know it. Although most of the NBA world was saying Sunday, “Draymond has to be smarter,” you heard nothing like that from the Warriors. Curry took umbrage at a question that implied Green was a distraction.

“He’s just playing basketball,” Curry said. “We do it together and everybody brings something different, including Draymond.”

An “emergency pod” isn’t the only way things have changed since 2016. Now, in large part because of the events that took place six years ago, Green has a reputation that arrives at the opposing arena and in officials’ minds long before he strolls into the tunnel.

That reputation was created, in large part, by the incident between Green and LeBron James in 2016. Green tangled with the NBA’s “king” — Green fell to the ground, James stepped deliberately over his face and Green responded with a retaliatory swipe to James’ nether regions. Green paid the consequence and earned a high-profile label.

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“HUMILIATION IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN, and at home by Trump, demoralized the exporters of democracy and capitalism. But Putin’s atrocities in Ukraine have now given them an opportunity to make America seem great again. The Russian bear has long guaranteed, more reliably than ‘Islamofascism’ or China, income, and identity to many in the military-industrial and intellectual-industrial complex. An aging centrist establishment — battered by the far right, harangued by post-Occupy and post-BLM young leftists, frustrated by legislative stalemate in Washington — seems suddenly galvanized by the prospect of defining themselves through a new cold war.” 

— Pankav Mishra, LRB

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ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY

The elite? As the Proles slog thru the mud on the side of the road, trudging to the bus stop to wait for one of their stinking buses filled up with vagrants and the mentally ill, the State Climate Commissar will be blowing by in his Lucid Air EV sedan, Deluxe Model $209,000, feeling smug and self satisfied, ready to run down any Prole that gets in his way.

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THE CENSORSHIP JUST KEEPS ON COMING

Consortium News is an American independent media outlet that has challenged NATO’s narrative on the ongoing Ukraine crisis. Paypal has frozen the accounts of Consortium News and might seize the funds of other independent media voices in a chilling example of corporate-enforced censorship. Consortium News and various independent journalists have recently received notice that their Paypal accounts are frozen, and they are no longer allowed to use the platform. According to the notice, the funds contained within the accounts may be returned after 180 days. But, according to Consortium News Editor in Chief, Joe Lauria, who spoke to a Paypal employee, if Paypal determines that there was a violation, some or all of the $9,348.14 may be seized by Paypal as “damages.” The process to determine if the funds will be returned is not known to the public and is entirely determined by Paypal itself rather than a judge or jury, according to Lauria, who spoke to Matt Taibbi’s TK News. Consortium News has been critical of the mainstream narrative on Ukraine pushed by NATO and the United States. It has also staunchly defended WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, even having a dedicated section to the journalist’s legal proceedings. Paypal gave no indication of why it shuttered Consortium’s account.

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Little River, 1874

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PAYPAL’S INDYMEDIA WIPEOUT

A series of moves against media outlets by PayPal shows the next step in speech control: confiscation. Why won't the company answer questions?

by Matt Taibbi

In the last week or so, the online payment platform PayPal without explanation suspended the accounts of a series of individual journalists and media outlets, including the well-known alt sites Consortium and MintPress. Each received a variation of the following message:

Unlike many on the list, Consortium editor Joe Lauria succeeded in reaching a human being at the company in search of details about the frozen or “held” funds referenced in the note. The PayPal rep told him that if the company decided “there was a violation” after a half-year review period, then “it is possible” PayPal would keep the $9,348.14 remaining in Consortium’s account, as “damages.” 

“A secretive process in which they could award themselves damages, not by a judge or a jury,” Lauria says. “Totally in secret.”

Consortium, founded by the late investigative reporter Robert Parry, has been critical of NATO and the Pentagon and a consistent source of skeptical reporting about Russiagate, as well as one of just a few outlets to regularly cover the Julian Assange case with any sympathy for the accused. Ironically, one of the site’s primary themes involves exploring disinformation emanating from the intelligence community. The site has had content disrupted by platforms like Facebook before, but now its pockets are being picked in addition. 

This episode ups the ante again on the content moderation movement, toward the world hinted at in the response to the Canadian trucker protests, where having the wrong opinions can result in your money being frozen or seized. Going after cash is a big jump from simply deleting speech, with a much bigger chilling effect. This is especially true in the alternative media world, where money has long been notoriously tight, and the loss of a few thousand dollars here or there can have a major effect on a site, podcast, or paper.

As MintPress founder and executive director Mnar Adley points out, the current era of content moderation — characterized by private platforms either overtly or covertly working with government to identify accounts for censure — really began with PayPal’s historic decision in 2010 to halt donations to Wikileaks. In that case, PayPal acted after receiving a letter from the State Department claiming the site’s activities were illegal. 

“PayPal banning donations from WikiLeaks really set up the blueprint for today’s censorship,” Adley says. 

Lauria believes PayPal is basing a potential claim on his company’s funds on a list of restricted activities in its service agreement that includes providing “false, inaccurate or misleading information.” He notes, of course, that “false” is “what they think is false, that is,” which is troubling for a pair of big reasons. 

One is the ongoing possibility of government or law enforcement involvement in fact-checking decisions, as PayPal announced just last year it would be cooperating with authorities in a content moderation campaign. The other is that the thread connecting the recent affected accounts — which include the former RT contributor Caleb Maupin and the host of the Geopolitics and Empire podcast Hrvoje Morić, among others — is that they’re all generally antiwar voices, who’ve been critical either of NATO or of official messaging with regard to the Ukraine conflict. 

Alan McLeod of MintPress is one of the writers who received the notice about improper “activity” in his account. He assumed at first there had to be a mistake. 

“The claim that my activity is ‘inconsistent’ with their user agreement is complete nonsense because I literally haven’t used my PayPal account since at least August of 2021,” he says. “I actually assumed [the suspension] was because it’d been inactive for too long.”

McLeod’s most recent article is entitled, “The NATO to TikTok Pipeline: Why is TikTok Employing So Many National Security Agents?” In it, he laid out a long list of “former spooks, spies, and Mandarins” hired by TikTok:

While simultaneously being the Content Policy Lead for TikTok Canada, Alexander Corbeil is also the vice president of the NATO Association of Canada, a NATO-funded organization chaired by former Canadian Minister of Defense David Collenette… Another NATO-linked new recruit is Ayse Koçak, a Global Product Policy manager at the company. Before joining TikTok last year, she spent three years at NATO…

If this is what qualifies as “false, inaccurate, or misleading information,” while CNN, MSNBC, and Fox’s daily rollout of ex-military analysts with undisclosed lobbying ties is upheld as the unobjectionable truth, it’s more or less finita la commedia for independent media. “I guess writing about big social media outlets being staffed with former NATO officials might be controversial,” McLeod quipped. 

The experience of MintPress exemplifies the logistical Whac-a-Mole controversial publishers have to play now in order to survive as businesses. In addition to the PayPal ban — which hit McLeod, Adley, and one other former Mint contributor, forcing the company to stop paying its writers via the platform — MintPress last month saw two of its fundraising campaigns on GoFundMe shut down. According to Adley, the outlet was able to receive about 90% of donations across a two-year campaign before they were abruptly cut off. At least GoFundMe didn’t try to keep “damages,” as several thousand dollars earmarked for MintPress were instead returned to donors.

Adley believes the chief crime of MintPress is that it exists as an alternative to monolithic messaging surrounding issues like Ukraine. Moreover, she believes it’s in trouble with PayPal not for being false, but precisely for printing true uncomfortable things, like McLeod’s NATO-to-TikTok story, or Dan Cohen’s recent piece about the 150-odd Western public relations firms working with Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry. Several of these MintPress pieces about Ukraine have gone viral in recent weeks. 

“We name the names, we break through the propaganda, we show the profiteers,” Adley says. “There’s so few of us left that do that, and I think that’s why we’ve become a target.”

As is the case with a lot of these accounts, MintPress falls out of the mainstream on whole ranges of issues. It’s come under heavy fire for its coverage of Syria, for instance. A lot of political moderates will struggle to connect with its point of view. This however is the whole point of alternative media, whose brief is to explore themes the traditional press won’t or can’t. If traditional news consumers feel comfortable reading them, these sites probably aren’t doing their jobs correctly. Censorship of them is especially concerning if law enforcement plays any role, since these are among the last media concerns to evince any skepticism about national security messaging. Unfortunately, there is reason to suspect this is the case. 

On July 26th of last year, PayPal announced a new partnership with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to “fight extremism and hate through the financial industry and across at-risk communities.” In describing the arrangement, PayPal talked about a third actor — the government:

PayPal and ADL have launched a research effort to address the urgent need to understand how extremist and hate movements throughout the U.S. are attempting to leverage financial platforms to fund criminal activity. The intelligence gathered through this research initiative will be shared broadly across the financial industry and with policymakers and law enforcement.

While companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter at least occasionally explain why prominent accounts have been suspended, neither PayPal nor the ADL will comment about how suspensions and confiscations of companies like MintPress and Consortium fit into their efforts to head off “criminal activity.” I reached out this week not just to the media relations offices of PayPal and the ADL, but to figures quoted in last year’s announcement, including ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt and PayPal Chief Risk officer Aaron Karczmer, getting no response anywhere. 

The ADL’s silence is particularly galling because some of the suspended accounts have written extensively about neo-Nazi movements not just in Ukraine, but in the U.S. and in other countries, including Russia. McLeod only just recently published a thread on the Nazi symbols worn by soldiers on both sides of the Ukraine conflict.

Is the ADL really interested in suppressing these voices? Why will they not answer questions on this front? At the very least, the ADL and PayPal should both explain the nature of their relationship to “policymakers” and “law enforcement.” Are they getting recommendations on whom to suspend from authorities? How do they identify sites for censure? So long as PayPal takes money from customers without guaranteeing they will explain suspension or confiscation decisions, or at least deigns to answer media queries about its decisions, media outlets should probably think twice about using their services. 

PayPal was sued earlier this year by three other account-holders for similar freezing of accounts without explanation. One of the original complainants was Chris Moneymaker, winner of the 2003 World Series of Poker, who claimed PayPal placed a hold on $12,000 of his money (the firm ultimately returned the funds, according to Bloomberg). The litigation involving the other complainants is still pending. PayPal meanwhile has periodically cut off other controversial media outlets, on both the left and the right. A former Infowars employee named David Knight, for instance, saw his independent broadcast show cut off last year, ironically after he broke with Alex Jones over the Stop the Steal issue. 

All of this is going on at a time when the Biden administration just announced the formation of a dystopian “Disinformation Governance Board,” preposterously headed by a bubbly former Kennan Institute fellow, Nina “The Singing Neoliberal” Jankowicz. In a detail Jonathan Swift couldn’t have written better, Jankowicz — who once cited the author of the greatest news hoax of our generation, Christopher Steele, as an expert on the “evolution of disinfo” — last year put out a video of herself as the “Mary Poppins of Disinformation.” In it, she sang a variation of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” featuring lines like:

They’re laundering disinfo and we really should take note

And not support their lies with our wallet voice or vote…

As many have pointed out, this is a literal nanny singing about the joys of the nanny state, in a song that includes lines about using the “wallet” to starve speech. There’s a fine line between parody and horror, and we’re tumbling fast to the horror side.

* * *

HAYMARKET, AND THE LAST ADDRESS OF AUGUST SPIES

It is October, 1887, Chicago.
Through the courthouse windows
August Spies, defendant, watches
The great leaves slicing down, down, through the still air
And ponders hanging.
He is used to making speeches: knows how to drag words over the friction of truth
Until it sparks, sweeps him away with a flame of fury,
And sets the crowd on fire.
Is this now different?
Death sits in the Courtroom.
He can hear a branch striking the courthouse bricks
Or perhaps it was a stone. He shivers.

Then, after swiftly scanning his notes,_
His Arbeiter-Zeitung articles:
Strikes, police attacks on carpenters,
Railroad workers, streetcar walkouts,
Steel workers, the deaths
–Dynamite!
He spots brave black Lucy, wife
Of co-defendant Albert Parsons
Sitting on a back bench, and her words ring in his ears:
“It is the only voice which tyranny has ever understood!”
He rises to his feet.

As upholsterer, he excels in structure.
Mortise and tenon join his arguments, framed oak-strong.
His defense is an accusation.
He slams the jury, a gang of appointed vigilantes,
The State Attorney, the Police Chief:
“Noble patricians, who thrive upon the misery of the multitudes
“Who cannot conceive of social order not held intact by the policeman’s club and pistol
Nor of a free society without prisons, gallows-“

He is filled with a savage joy as he details the breadth,
The dominion, the infernal iron grasp
Of a system which enslaves the people, living without hope.
As he himself is doomed, he has no hope
To weaken what he says.

“You have intimated that Anarchism is on trial here!”
He looks around at the newspapermen..” And you have
Invented and spread shocking and horrifying stories-
Of dark conspiracies- of a newly- discovered tribe of cannibals-
Knowing we have striven only to
Limit people’s endless toil
To an eight-hour day!”

Spies glares at the bench, but
Judge Gary’s face remains a haughty, shriveled mask.

He raises his voice.

If that is the case, your honor, very well;
You may sentence me, for I am an Anarchist.
I believe, with Paine, Jefferson, Emerson,
That the state of castes and classes—
Where one class dominates over
The labor of another class, and calls it order-
Yes! I believe that this barbaric form of social organization,
With its legalized plunder and murder,
Is doomed to die, and make room for a free society,
Voluntary association, or universal brotherhood!
The mandate of the feudal lords of our time
Is slavery, starvation and death!”

The acoustics are good, and Spies has the lungs of a mountain man.
He has been charged, he declares, with “conspiracy against society,”
Because he has endeavored to educate the wage workers.
“For the ruling class
Have always kept the people in ignorance
“Because they must not lose their servility, their modesty,
Their obedience to the powers that be.
The system of wages is the root
Of present social iniquities- iniquities” he thunders,
So monstrous that they cry out to Heaven!”

He lifts his eyes to the balcony and is stunned
To meet the gaze of his father, dead already a decade!
The eyes are kind and smiling, and
Suddenly he is transported to Landenberg Mountain.
He is in his old lederhosen, and he holds his father’s hand
As they walk together through the dark trunks of the deep forest
Talking of stars, and earth, and all the creatures living on it.
It is Beltane, the first day of May, and, as they walk, they gather

Ash, oak, hawthorn,
Wild red carnations, flower of revolution, for his mother.

Far from the heavy, dirty air of this sad city,
He breathes the pure, shimmering mountain ether
And his spirit expands.

He is only thirty-two. His time on earth is ending.
He will use it.. The light in the window changes slowly,
But still the court is transfixed.

However, he is now addressing, not them, but
The workers of future centuries
The masses whose red flags will one day surge through the world’s streets
-Vast fields of scarlet, like the carnation meadows of his Hessian mountain-
In Vienna, Paris, Berlin,
Except in his own nation, dimmed and unrepentant, every nation in the world.

People will memorize his words.
“A revolution is like an earthquake, a hurricane,
It cannot be organized. Here we may tread upon a spark
But behind you, and in front of you, and everywhere
Flames will blaze up. It is subterranean,
The ground is on fire, upon which you stand!
And if you think you can extinguish these ideas_
That are gaining ground every day!
-If you think you can crush them out by sending us to the gallows-
-If you would once more have a people suffer the penalty of death
Because they dared to tell the truth-
And I defy you to show us where we have told a lie-
I say, if death is the penalty for proclaiming truth,
Then I will proudly and defiantly pay the price!
Truth, crucified in Socrates,, in Christ, in
Giordano Bruno, in Huss, in Galileo, still lives, and they,
And others, whose number is legion
Have preceded us on this path.
We are ready to follow!”

They lead him away
And, three weeks later,
His appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court rejected,
To the US Supreme Court rejected,
He thinks again of Giordano Bruno as he is brought to the hangman-
The modest, servile and obedient hangman-

With his three dear friends, and hooded,
Thinks of Bruno, burned at the stake, in a Roman plaza,
For saying that all the stars might be worlds, and
That other worlds might exist.
He chuckles,
For those, indeed, were his words too..

And so, just before he is dropped
His lungs fill once again with fragrant mountain air, and
He blasts a last message to this world:
“The time will come when our silence
Will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today!”
As he falls, he thinks only of the stars.

— Ellen Taylor

* * *

Hawthorne Blossom (photo by Elaine Kalantarian)

* * *

MORE THAN A WALL / MAS QUE UN MURO: a new Book by David Bacon

This May Day I'm happy to announce the publication of a new book of photographs of the Mexico/U.S. border - a book of photographs by David Bacon and oral histories created during 30 years of covering the people and social movements of the Mexico/U.S. border - a complex, richly textured documentation of a world in newspaper headlines daily, but whose reality, as it's lived by border residents, is virtually invisible.

- 440 pages

- 354 duotone black-and-white photographs

- a dozen oral histories

- incisive journalism and analysis by David Bacon, Don Bartletti, Luis Escala, Guillermo Alonso and Alberto del Castillo.

- completely bilingual in English and Spanish

- published by El Colegio de la Frontera Norte with support from the UCLA Institute for Labor Research and Education and the Center for Mexican Studies, the Werner Kohlstamm Family Fund, and the Green Library at Stanford University

Publication date - May 1, 2022 (May Day, of course)

Price: $35 plus postage and handling

Pre-publication discount for orders before May 1 (but we'll continue it for a few days more) - use coupon "prepublication"

To order, click here: david-bacon-photography.square.site/product/more-than-a-wall-mas-que-un-muro/1

* * *

* * *

ACKER SAYS, 'CHECK HER OUT'

A non-partisan candidate to consider for the upcoming Primary

With the Primary only days away (Ballots go out May 9th) We wanted to share with you a candidate that has a bigger vision for California. We know you guys, like us, are life long Democrats, but with all the polarization that we are experiencing it just might serve California better if we looked beyond political parties. We recently helped to host a “Meet & Greet” with CA gubernatorial candidate Reinette Senum here in Fort Bragg. Initially we were mildly intrigued by what we had heard of her, but hearing her speak pushed us over the edge, as she speaks straight from the heart. She is not a democrat or republican, but rather a Californian. Her “7 generations” platform could truly transform the state. She has allegiance to no political party and takes no corporate donations so she is focused on serving Californians only.

As the primary is only weeks away we would encourage you to check her out! She is definitely worth at least that. Go to her website (electreinette.com) where there is lots of information including her “*Contract with Californians*” (an outline of her vision and the metrics she wants to be judged by, this is worth at least a quick skim) as well as some great interviews again worth the time to watch or listen to. (our favorite: https://youtu.be/_H00oHEpp_I)

There will probably be some things that she puts forth that you may disagree with. As a moderate candidate without a political or corporate filter this should be expected. However, if you look at the whole of what she represents, I think you can’t help but be inspired and at the very least recognize this is a candidate that is really looking to find the common ground in a very polarized political system.

Charles Acker <cacker@mcn.org>

* * *

1955, 1973

* * *

THE IRRATIONAL, MISGUIDED DISCOURSE Surrounding Supreme Court Controversies Such as Roe v. Wade

The Court, like the U.S. Constitution, was designed to be a limit on the excesses of democracy. Roe denied, not upheld, the rights of citizens to decide democratically.

by Glenn Greenwald

Politico on Monday night published what certainly appears to be a genuine draft decision by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito that would overturn the Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. Alito's draft ruling would decide the pending case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which concerns the constitutionality of a 2018 Mississippi law that bans abortions after fifteen weeks of pregnancy except in the case of medical emergency or severe fetal abnormalities. Given existing Supreme Court precedent that abortion can only be restricted after fetal viability, Mississippi's ban on abortions after the 15th week — at a point when the fetus is not yet deemed viable — is constitutionally dubious. To uphold Mississippi's law — as six of the nine Justices reportedly wish to do — the Court must either find that the law is consistent with existing abortion precedent, or acknowledge that it conflicts with existing precedent and then overrule that precedent on the ground that it was wrongly decided.

Alito's draft is written as a majority opinion, suggesting that at least five of the Court's justices — a majority — voted after oral argument in Dobbs to overrule Roe on the ground that it was “egregiously wrong from the start” and “deeply damaging.” In an extremely rare event for the Court, an unknown person with unknown motives leaked the draft opinion to Politico, which justifiably published it. A subsequent leak to CNN on Monday night claimed that the five justices in favor of overruling Roe were Bush 43 appointee Alito, Bush 41 appointee Clarence Thomas, and three Trump appointees (Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett), while Chief Justice Roberts, appointed by Bush 43, is prepared to uphold the constitutionality of Mississippi's abortion law without overruling Roe.

Draft rulings and even justices’ votes sometimes change in the period between the initial vote after oral argument and the issuance of the final decision. Depending on whom you choose to believe, this leak is either the work of a liberal justice or clerk designed to engender political pressure on the justices so that at least one abandons their intention to overrule Roe, or it came from a conservative justice or clerk, designed to make it very difficult for one of the justices in the majority to switch sides. Whatever the leaker's motives, a decision to overrule this 49-year-old precedent, one of the most controversial in the Court's history, would be one of the most significant judicial decisions issued in decades. The reaction to this leak — like the reaction to the initial ruling in Roe back in 1973 — was intense and strident, and will likely only escalate once the ruling is formally issued.

Every time there is a controversy regarding a Supreme Court ruling, the same set of radical fallacies emerges regarding the role of the Court, the Constitution and how the American republic is designed to function. Each time the Court invalidates a democratically elected law on the ground that it violates a constitutional guarantee — as happened in Roe — those who favor the invalidated law proclaim that something “undemocratic” has transpired, that it is a form of “judicial tyranny” for “five unelected judges” to overturn the will of the majority. Conversely, when the Court refuses to invalidate a democratically elected law, those who regard that law as pernicious, as an attack on fundamental rights, accuse the Court of failing to protect vulnerable individuals.

This by-now-reflexive discourse about the Supreme Court ignores its core function. Like the U.S. Constitution itself, the Court is designed to be an anti-majoritarian check against the excesses of majoritarian sentiment. The Founders wanted to establish a democracy that empowered majorities of citizens to choose their leaders, but also feared that majorities would be inclined to coalesce around unjust laws that would deprive basic rights, and thus sought to impose limits on the power of majorities as well. 

The Federalist Papers are full of discussions about the dangers of majoritarian excesses. The most famous of those is James Madison's Federalist 10, where he warns of "factions…who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” One of the primary concerns in designing the new American republic, if not the chief concern, was how to balance the need to establish rule by the majority (democracy) with the equally compelling need to restrain majorities from veering into impassioned, self-interested attacks on the rights of minorities (republican government). As Madison put it: “To secure the public good, and private rights, against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our enquiries are directed.” Indeed, the key difference between a pure democracy and a republic is that the rights of the majority are unrestricted in the former, but are limited in the latter. The point of the Constitution, and ultimately the Supreme Court, was to establish a republic, not a pure democracy, that would place limits on the power of majorities.

Thus, the purpose of the Bill of Rights is fundamentally anti-democratic and anti-majoritarian. It bars majorities from enacting laws that infringe on the fundamental rights of minorities. Thus, in the U.S., it does not matter if 80% or 90% of Americans support a law to restrict free speech, or ban the free exercise of a particular religion, or imprison someone without due process, or subject a particularly despised criminal to cruel and unusual punishment. Such laws can never be validly enacted. The Constitution deprives the majority of the power to engage in such acts regardless of how popular they might be. 

And at least since the 1803 ruling in Madison v. Marbury which established the Supreme Court's power of "judicial review” — i.e., to strike down laws supported by majorities and enacted democratically if such laws violate the rights guaranteed by the Constitution — the Supreme Court itself is intended to uphold similarly anti-majoritarian and anti-democratic values. 

When the Court strikes down a law that majorities support, it may be a form of judicial tyranny if the invalidated law does not violate any actual rights enshrined in the Constitution. But the mere judicial act of invalidating a law supported by a majority of citizens — though frequently condemned as “undemocratic" — is, in fact, a fulfillment of one of the Court's prime functions in a republic. 

Unless one believes that the will of the majority should always prevail — that laws restricting or abolishing free speech, due process and the free exercise of religion should be permitted as long as enough citizens support it — then one must favor the Supreme Court's anti-democratic and anti-majoritarian powers. Rights can be violated by a small handful of tyrants, but they can also be violated by hateful and unhinged majorities. The Founders’ fear of majoritarian tyranny is why the U.S. was created as a republic rather than a pure democracy. 

Whether the Court is acting properly or despotically when it strikes down a democratically elected law, or otherwise acts contrary to the will of the majority, depends upon only one question: whether the law in question violates a right guaranteed by the Constitution. A meaningful assessment of the Court's decisions is impossible without reference to that question. Yet each time the Court acts in a controversial case, judgments are applied without any consideration of that core question.

The reaction to Monday night's news that the Court intends to overrule Roe was immediately driven by all of these common fallacies. It was bizarre to watch liberals accuse the Court of acting “undemocratically" as they denounced the ability of "five unelected aristocrats” — in the words of Vox's Ian Millhiser — to decide the question of abortion rights. Who do they think decided Roe in the first place? 

Indeed, Millhiser's argument here — unelected Supreme Court Justices have no business mucking around in abortion rights — is supremely ironic given that it was unelected judges who issued Roe back in 1972, in the process striking down numerous democratically elected laws. Worse, this rhetoric perfectly echoes the arguments which opponents of Roe have made for decades: namely, it is the democratic process, not unelected judges, which should determine what, if any, limits will be placed on the legal ability to provide or obtain an abortion. Indeed, Roe was the classic expression of the above-described anti-majoritarian and anti-democratic values: seven unelected white men (for those who believe such demographic attributes matter) struck down laws that had been supported by majorities and enacted by many states which heavily restricted or outright banned abortion procedures. The sole purpose of Roe was to deny citizens the right to enact the anti-abortion laws, no matter how much popular support they commanded.

This extreme confusion embedded in heated debates over the Supreme Court was perhaps most vividly illustrated last night by Waleed Shahid, the popular left-wing activist, current spokesman for the left-wing group Justice Democrats, and previously a top aide and advisor to Squad members including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Shahid — who, needless to say, supports Roe — posted a quote from Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address, in 1861, which Shahid evidently believes supports his view that Roe must be upheld. 

But the quote from Lincoln — warning that the Court must not become the primary institution that decides controversial political questions — does not support Roe at all; indeed, Lincoln's argument is the one most often cited in favor of overruling Roe. In fact, Lincoln's argument is the primary one on which Alito relied in the draft opinion to justify overruling Roe: namely, that democracy will be imperiled, and the people will cease to be their own rulers, if the Supreme Court, rather than the legislative branches, ends up deciding hot-button political questions such as abortion about which the Constitution is silent. Here's the version of the Lincoln pro-democracy quote, complete with bolded words, that Shahid posted, apparently in the belief that it somehow supports upholding Roe:

It is just inexplicable to cite this Lincoln quote as a defense of Roe. Just look at what Lincoln said: “if the policy of the government, upon vital questions affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, [then] the people will have ceased to be their own rulers.” That is exactly the argument that has been made by pro-life activists for years against Roe, and it perfectly tracks Alito's primary view as defended in his draft opinion. 

Alito's decision, if it becomes the Court's ruling, would not itself ban abortions. It would instead lift the judicial prohibition on the ability of states to enact laws restricting or banning abortions. In other words, it would take this highly controversial question of abortion and remove it from the Court's purview and restore it to federal and state legislatures to decide it. One cannot defend Roe by invoking the values of democracy or majoritarian will. Roe was the classic case of a Supreme Court ruling that denied the right of majorities to decide what laws should govern their lives and their society.

One can defend Roe only by explicitly defending anti-majoritarian and anti-democratic values: namely, that the abortion question should be decided by a panel of unelected judges, not by the people or their elected representatives. The defense of democracy invoked by Lincoln, and championed by Shahid, can be used only to advocate that this abortion debate should be returned to the democratic processes, which is precisely what Alito argued (emphasis added):

Abortion presents a profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views. Some believe fervently that a human person comes into being at conception and that abortion ends an innocent life. Others feel just as strongly that any regulation of abortion invades a woman's right to control her own body and prevents women from achieving full equality. Still others in a third group think that abortion should be allowed under some but not all circumstances, and those within this group hold a variety of views about the particular restrictions that should be imposed.

For the first 185 years after the adoption of the Constitution, each State was permitted to address this issue in accordance with the views of its citizens. Then, in 1973, this Court decided Roe v. Wade….At the time of Roe, 30 States still prohibited abortion at all stages. In the years prior to that decision, about a third of the States had liberalized their laws, but Roe abruptly ended that political process. It imposed the same highly restrictive regime on the entire Nation, and it effectively struck down the abortion laws of every single State. As Justice Byron White aptly put it in his dissent, the decision Court represented the “exercise of raw judicial power,” 410 U. S., at 222….

Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences…..It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people's elected representatives. “The permissibility of abortion, and the limitations, upon it, are to be resolved like most important questions in our democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting.” Casey, 505 U.S. at 979 (Scalia, J, concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part). That is what the Constitution and the rule of law demand.

Rhetoric that heralds the values of democracy and warns of the tyranny of “unelected judges” and the like is not a rational or viable way to defend Roe. That abortion rights should be decided democratically rather than by a secret tribunal of "unelected men in robes" is and always has been the anti-Roe argument. The right of the people to decide, rather than judges, is the primary value which Alito repeatedly invokes in defending the overruling of Roe and once again empowering citizens, through their elected representatives, to make these decisions.

The only way Roe can be defended is through an explicit appeal to the virtues of the anti-democratic and anti-majoritarian principles enshrined in the Constitution: namely, that because the Constitution guarantees the right to have an abortion (though a more generalized right of privacy), then majorities are stripped of the power to enact laws restricting it. Few people like to admit that their preferred views depend upon a denial of the rights of the majority to decide, or that their position is steeped in anti-democratic values. But there is and always has been a crucial role for such values in the proper functioning of the United States and especially the protection of minority rights. If you want to rant about the supremacy and sanctity of democracy and the evils of "unelected judges,” then you will necessarily end up on the side of Justice Alito and the other four justices who appear ready to overrule Roe

Anti-Roe judges are the ones who believe that abortion rights should be determined through majority will and the democratic process. Roe itself was the ultimate denial, the negation, of unrestrained democracy and majoritarian will. As in all cases, whether Roe's anti-democratic ruling was an affirmation of fundamental rights or a form of judicial tyranny depends solely on whether one believes that the Constitution bars the enactment of laws which restrict abortion or whether it is silent on that question. But as distasteful as it might be to some, the only way to defend Roe is to acknowledge that your view is that the will of the majority is irrelevant to this conflict, that elected representatives have no power to decide these questions, and that all debates about abortion must be entrusted solely to unelected judges to authoritatively decide them without regard to what majorities believe or want.

(greenwald.substack.com)

* * *

Castlebar High School for Girls, 1908

* * *

DOBBS V. JACKSON: WOMEN’S HEALTH

What power has the Court
Without the purse or the sword
We’re now to find out

— Jim Luther

13 Comments

  1. Kirk Vodopals May 4, 2022

    As predicted, the weed tax money has dried up. What’s this poor, rural county to do now?

    • Mark Scaramella May 4, 2022

      Start by cutting back the weed department.

      • Kirk Vodopals May 4, 2022

        Of course, but then how do we fix our roads and fund our schools if we simply ignore probably the largest industry in this county? You can’t tax the black market….but you can fine the crap out of them. Ah the Mendo shit show must go on!!!
        How many ballers went back to indoor cannabis?? Or shrooms? Or nose candy? Raise yer hands please!

  2. Marmon May 4, 2022

    RE: JUST MOMENTS AGO

    “This MAGA crowd is really the most extreme political organization that has ever existed in American history.”

    —Joe Biden

    One could argue that the WOKE crowd is.

    Marmon

    • Kirk Vodopals May 4, 2022

      Both MAGA and BLM are full of shit. Qanon is telling people Covid is snake venom in the water supply. BLM bought a million dollar mansion for its execs.

    • Mark Scaramella May 4, 2022

      Not necessarily.
      Horizontal directional drilling (HDD) has become an important construction option for installing underground electric distribution cable.
      A relatively compact drilling machine can quickly drill a precisely-guided pilot hole, then pull conduit to hold cable back through the hole. HDD limits excavation, avoids cutting across streets and landscaped areas and greatly reduces the amount of restoration required after an installation is complete.
      The first directional drilling equipment small enough for utility work was introduced in the late 1980s, but HDD rigs weren’t seen regularly on job sites until the early ‘90s.
      HDD was used to install underground electric distribution cables in the early stage of the technology’s emergence.
      In fact, among the first compact drilling machines sold in the state of Georgia were purchased specifically to replace old and failing power distribution cable.

      https://www.ecmag.com/section/your-business/utilities-go-new-directions-underground-report

      And:

      https://calboring.com/boring/

      (Note. The second website link is not about Mendocino County Supervisors meetings.)

      • Marmon May 4, 2022

        I’ve been watching the boring technique Mark is talking about for the last 6 months here in clearlake. Quite an operation.

        Konocti County Water District upgrades treatment plant systems

        “Priebe pointed out areas on the approximately 1.5 acres of the treatment plant where, “a lot of new underground piping has been put in. There’s also a new pipe (the raw-water line) that goes all the way from the lake at Ball Park Avenue to here at the treatment plant, for a distance of 1.6 miles. We also have a 1,500-foot pipe (16 inch diameter, with 12 inch inside diameter) going into the lake to get deeper, cleaner water.”

        “At Redbud Park Launching Facility next to the site for the pumping station, the three KCWD people pointed out the raw-water pipe. Parks told how the pipeline was floated to the intake structure in the lake, then attached to a drilling rod and pulled back to where the pump station will be.”

        See Picture

        https://www.record-bee.com/2021/11/05/konocti-county-water-district-invests-in-treatment-plant-upgrades/

        Marmon

  3. chuck dunbar May 4, 2022

    “THE IRRATIONAL, MISGUIDED DISCOURSE Surrounding Supreme Court Controversies Such as Roe v. Wade”

    Glenn Greenwald, in his precise, thoughtful piece, reminds us that the Constitution deliberately enshrines–in part– anti-majoratarian, anti-democratic principles as a means of protecting the basic rights of minorities. As he notes, this vital issue gets lost at times in current discussions. Thanks for printing this piece, AVA.

    • George Hollister May 4, 2022

      Are women who get pregnant, and men that necessarily are at least equally responsible minorities? Can they vote? Can they organize politically? I envision what will come of this court decision, if the leaked draft is the final document, is a lot of political activity to make the law fit the State. Newsom has already made a proposal for California. There are women from all political stripes who have had abortions, and men who were engaged. My guess those people have a pretty good idea what they think. Same can be said for single women who have had children out of wedlock. Let the debate begin. We will be better for it.

  4. k h May 5, 2022

    Re the REACH bill

    I’ve come to think of most of the participants in the “end of life healthcare” pipeline as the final wealth extractors in the American medical system’s long, legal, ritualized and phenomenally lucrative extortion system.

  5. Beth Swehla May 5, 2022

    The reason there is no crime in Anderson Valley is because there is no deputy/CHP to catch anyone misbehaving.

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