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SUBTLE COOLING is expected for interior areas as a weak disturbance moves into the Pacific Northwest. The interior cooling trend is forecast to mostly continue through the rest of the week and into the upcoming weekend. Coastal areas will continue to be seasonal. (NWS)
A FIRE CALL at 4:22 Monday afternoon reported a roadside blaze about five miles up the Ukiah-Road from Boonville. The precise location was a field on the Miner-Anderson Ranch. The fire was first confined by a passing Orion crew, sub-contracted by PG&E to clear power lines, which happened to spot the blaze as they drove past. A massive turnout of local and CalFire crews ensued. Anderson Valley Fire Chief, Andres Avila said if the Orion crew hadn't caught the fire soon after it broke out, the afternoon winds might have blown up into a major conflagration. The cause is not known, but since it broke out only a few feet from the road, it can be speculated a passing vehicle somehow sparked it in the adjacent dry grass.
(SURELY no one, even the most heedless among us, throw their lit cigarette butts out their vehicle windows, do they?)
IN OTHER LOCAL NEWS, the Planning Commission hearing on Mary Zeeble's proposed glamping (“glamorous camping”) permit for more than a hundred probably not all that glamorous campers on Ray's Road, Philo, has been put over until July 28th.
Here is good news: The County was recommended for funding in the amount of $655,702 (100% of our funding request) for the CEC Rural Electric Vehicle Charging Station grant. The award will be finalized at the next CEC Business Meeting on July 13th, followed by execution of the grant agreement.
BOONVILLE BIG BAND
Big Band Facebook page: facebook.com/Boonville-Big-Band-and-Bob-Ayres-Big-Bands-186873621362746
Dig it and feel free to put up pictures or comments There’s even a video of us playing at the inglenook Grange,
Richard Karch <email@example.com>
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT wondered this morning, “ ‘Toxic coal train’ proposal now stalled on North Coast; was it ever a real project?” (See below.)
NO, it wasn't. Ditto for McGuire's Great Redwood Trail scam, and its foundational scam pulled off by former Congressman Bosco, and nicely summarized by this comment on the PD's website:
“Doug Bosco, former CA Representative and then US Representative made MULTI-MILLIONS in a closed deal that Mike McGuire spearheaded selling the freight rights he purchased for pennies in the North Bay. SMART purchased the rights from Mr. Bosco in the McGuire-led scheme. So it would not be too far to think this was another attempt to purchase rights that were never intended to be used. They would cook up another deal to sell the rights by bilking the taxpayers for MILLIONS, to prevent the evil coal train. I smell a RAT. Andrew dig a little deeper please.”
“ANDREW” refers to Press Democrat reporter, Andrew Graham, a young guy from the look of him, who probably knows a lot more about these excitingly corrupt schemes than he can say given that their mastermind, Bosco, owns the newspaper.
A READER WRITES: “MRC is busily taking trees from the forest, and what we hear are saws and dozers below our place. BYW, the last trip to the coast I noticed lots of tree-loads being trucked out on the highways and they were all loaded with doug fir (not of great diameter, either). I wonder if the price of fir is up at the moment. What happened to Measure V? If you were referring to the Supes & Measure V, the answer is money. Big Money does as it pleases, and we the peeps best stay out of its way. The owner of the Oakland A's can do whatever he likes in our forests. (Poor baby has the worst record in baseball).”
MEASURE V? Unenforced, natch, but it would have compelled MRC to reduce standing dead tree fire hazards (declared “nuisances”) even with a formal County Counsel opinion two years ago that said that Mendocino Redwoods was clearly NOT exempt from nuisance laws.
ALSO NATCH, when the Albion-Little River volunteer fire department thought it would be swell if MRC paid their fair share of fire protection, MRC said no, and that was that. Ditto for Karen Calvert and Mr. Karen, Albion hill royalty, who said they wouldn't be paying their fair share for fire protection either.
HOMELESS CAMPS are proliferating inland, causing major additional headaches for the cops, and major anxiety for people living along Mike McGuire's Great Redwood Drug and Alcohol Campout Trail. And maybe it's time to shelve the term “homeless,” which implies very poor, respectable people turned out of doors because they don't have the money for indoors. However, the people inhabiting inland Mendo's “homeless” camps — many of them fouling inland waterways, especially the battered Russian River — are living rough because outside they are free to dope and drink themselves into daily stupors. Even more harrowing to many inland residents are “bum fires,” some of them set in retaliation for being rousted.
JUST SAYIN’, but if Ruth Bader Ginsburg had stepped down from the Supreme Court when Obama asked her to, Roe vs. Wade would still be in effect. And for years the Democrats claimed they were all that stood between the repeal of Roe vs. Wade was them. So, is there another reason to be a Democrat? Can't think of one.
I AGREE TOTALLY with Matt Taibbi: “Like, I suspect, a lot of America, I feel politically homeless. Life in this country increasingly is like watching a ping-pong match between the two most unhinged people in the institution. How did we get here, and what happened to the mighty engine of dependable non-change that was America just a few years ago?”
WE HEARD that Marco MacClean was wowed by Supervisor Gjerde's extempore deconstruction of the Mendo Cheap Water Mafia's attempt to get taxpayers to fund the WM's continued enjoyment of, as Gjerde put it, “virtually free water.” No surprise here. Gjerde's a very smart guy which, to us, made his nearly decade-long silence extremely frustrating, especially on boards that gave incompetence a bad name. We think that the Ogress was a major intimidator, that her supervisors, and she mos def, considered her five yes votes hers, simply went along with her to elude her wrath which, we understand, was Vesuvian. Gjerde's like one of these rare cases of a guy suddenly waking up after years on life support.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT, here’s Gjerde’s impromptu deconstruction of the Mulheren-McGourty water sales proposal:
“The water tax is completely unnecessary. Even for the purposes that Supervisor McGourty just mentioned. Just simple back of the envelope estimates show that the Potter Valley Irrigation District which virtually gives away their water at $22.50 an acre foot, knowing that the state rate for irrigation water is probably around $150-$200 per acre foot, if they simply went to the state average, if the Russian River Flood Control District went to the state average for their wholesale irrigation water — those two entities by themselves could produce well over $1 million a year. So there, problem solved! $1 million a year, just those two boards. They could take action. Nobody is stopping them. But instead, nope! They want everybody in Mendocino County to pay an extra sales tax to bail them out because they don't want their customers to pay the going rate. It is so offensive. This whole water tax is the most absurd proposal to ever befall the people of Mendocino County! If this tax goes on the ballot it is going down! It deserves to go down in defeat. Everybody who came to this meeting today to speak in favor of the fire services should back off from this ill-advised proposal by Supervisors Mulheren and McGourty to pass this ridiculous and offensive water tax through a fire service tax. Supervisor Haschack and I are offering a viable plan that could pass in November potentially because it would enable the voters in 2023 to know that their taxes will be going down in 2023 because it would be 1/8 cent. If the library tax passes adding an extra 1/8 cent tax, they would still see their taxes go down by 1/8 cent. This is the most plausible scenario possible. Promises from this group and promises for that group will guarantee nothing for anybody. The only guarantee with the 3/8 cent proposal that Supervisor Mulheren has put together is that everybody's taxes will go up. There's no guarantee on how any of the money will be spent.”
POT TALK, an on-line comment: I find the comment about the logging industry to be quite absurd. The logging industry was far more regulated than the cannabis industry and they followed the rules or they were shut down. They did not divert water to irrigate their forests. They did not leave human waste and other garbage for someone else to clean up. They did not practice wholesale killing of wildlife to keep them from destroying their crops. And if they went to the Board of Supervisors to ask for tax relief they would have been laughed out of the meeting. You wanted cannabis legalized. You got it. If you can’t compete, find another game to play.
SARAH AND MANNY'S DAY OUT (OF CUSTODY)
On Thursday, June 23, 2022 at 11:25 P.M. Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Deputies were on routine patrol in the 4400 block of Highway 20 in Ukiah.
Deputies conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle driven by a male driver who initially provided a false name to Deputies. Throughout the traffic stop, Deputies eventually learned the true name of the driver who was later identified as Emmanuel Cazoria-Mejia, 40, of Clearlake.
Sheriff's Office Dispatch informed Deputies Cazoria-Mejia had two active felony arrest warrants and one active misdemeanor arrest warrant out of Sonoma County. Upon further investigation, Cazoria-Mejia was found to be under the influence of a controlled substance.
The passenger and owner of the the vehicle was identified as Sarah Simon, 45, of Sacramento. Deputies conducted a search of the vehicle and found drug paraphernalia and a pepper spray container. Deputies learned on scene that these items belonged to Simon.
Deputies learned that Simon was legally prohibited from possessing or using pepper spray, which she possessed at the time of the stop.
Deputies arrested Cazoria-Mejia for his two felony arrest warrants, one misdemeanor arrest warrant, false identification to a peace officer, and being under the influence of a controlled substance. Cazoria-Mejia was booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held in lieu of $56,000 bail.
Deputies arrested Simon for being in possession of drug paraphernalia and being a prohibited person in possession of of pepper spray. Simon was booked into the Mendocino County Jail where she was to be held in lieu of $15,000 bail.
FIVE ACTRESS COMEDY THIS WEDNESDAY!
Watch as Gina O'Feral, Maureen Martin, Nancy Nelson, Janice Culliford, and Jill Taylor take on “LOVE, LOSS, AND WHAT I WORE”, a rapid-fire comic romp by Nora and Delia Ephron (they screenwrote “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle”)...Tales and remembrances of mothers, fathers, sisters, lovers, and clothes: “Funny, compelling...Brought down the house!” --NYTimes. One performance only: Mendocino Theatre Company, Schoeni Theatre, Mendocino Art Center, Wednesday, June 29, 7PM. Show vax proof; wear masks. New, comfy theatre seats. Suggested donation $10. Info 964-5582; 937-4477...
Mervin Gilbert <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Warmest spiritual greetings,
The dental work is now finished, and I am therefore able to move on from the Building Bridges homeless shelter in Ukiah, California. Otherwise, I am doing nothing of any social importance here; while spending the days walking around chanting mantrams and watching the mind, in the summer heat. I am forever identified with that which is "prior to consciousness".
Thank you for listening, and appreciating this message.
Craig Louis Stehr
WITH ‘TOXIC COAL TRAIN’ PROPOSAL NOW STALLED ON NORTH COAST, WAS IT EVER A REAL PROJECT?
A mysterious company’s bid to gain control of a defunct Northern California railroad line sparked fierce political outrage. How serious was that bid and who was behind it?
A far-fetched coal-by-rail export proposal stirred outrage in Northern California before fizzling. Was there ever anything to it?
by Andrew Graham
Nearly a year ago, a company newly registered in Wyoming set off alarms and political outrage in Northern California with a filing at a federal rail agency.
The company outlined a plan to restore a long-abandoned rail line running north from Sonoma County for high-volume freight cargo.
Though the filing did not specify the cargo or where it would come from, the few public and reported comments of its chief representative indicated the plan was moving Montana and Wyoming coal for export out of Humboldt Bay.
The proposal immediately ran into a wall of fierce opposition ‒ with federal, state and local lawmakers from San Francisco Bay to Eureka all dead set against it.
The federal agency that entertained the idea, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, which oversees rail rights of way including the 176 miles of defunct tracks between Willits and Eureka, put the brakes on the project in a procedural ruling earlier this month.
But as the tide goes out on the audacious and costly coal export scheme ‒ a political anathema in climate-concerned Northern California ‒ questions remain about exactly who was behind the North Coast Railroad Co. and whether it ever had the wherewithal to succeed.
“This has been one of the more colorful issues that I have ever worked on in my time in local and state government,” California Senate Majority Leader Mike McGuire, who rallied opposition against what he dubbed the “toxic coal train” in Sacramento and along the North Coast.
“The longer this proposal sat, the more stinky it got,” he said.
On June 10, the Surface Transportation Board rejected the North Coast Railroad Company’s bid. Though represented by a Chicago law firm experienced in federal railroad law, the company missed a filing deadline by a day, and the board subsequently tossed its application for control of the line.
North Coast Railroad Co. has yet to make any effort to appeal that decision, according to the company’s opponents.
The decision by the federal board came the same day three California lawmakers accused the company of submitting a falsified bank statement as part of its application with the federal rail board. The bank statement was meant to satisfy a requirement that entities show proof of their ability to cover cleanup and upgrade costs.
The lawmakers ‒ Sen. Alex Padilla and Reps. Jared Huffman and Mike Thompson ‒ pointed to paperwork showing the balance of the account had dipped as low as $70 in the weeks leading up to a filing in which the company claimed millions of dollars in the bank. The North Coast Railroad Co. has yet to publicly respond to the allegations.
An official with the bank this week cast further doubt on the statement’s validity.
Meanwhile, a Press Democrat review of companies linked to Justin Wight, a former North Carolina resident who served as the North Coast Railroad Co.’s principal spokesperson in California, turned up little evidence of the business experience and financial backing required for a railroad venture that sought to restore heavy freight operations on long-abandoned lines.
Retrofit costs for the track are estimated at $2.3 billion, according to estimates by state officials.
Elected officials who slammed the rail takeover pitched it as a battle against “big coal.” But no sign has emerged of involvement from the nation’s leading coal mining companies.
Instead, The Press Democrat’s review of Wight’s business background turned up what appeared to be misleading marketing, shadowy limited liability companies, and in one case, sanctions from the California Department of Real Estate.
McGuire, a Healdsburg Democrat, has been an especially vocal opponent of the coal train as it would collide with plans he has championed to build the Great Redwood Trail, a 320-mile recreation path from San Francisco Bay to Humboldt Bay. North of Willits, in Mendocino County, the trail will use the same old rail bed the North Coast Railroad Co. wanted for coal shipments.
“This has been an enormous time and resource drain fighting this effort,” McGuire said in an interview Thursday. “Who would have thought that in 2022 this community would have had to organize and mobilize to fight a coal train?”
Mysterious railroad entity
Wight is the only person besides Robert Wimbish, a Chicago attorney, ever publicly linked to the North Coast Railroad Co. It was registered in August in Wyoming, just 10 days before its first filing with the Surface Transportation Board.
Wyoming is notorious for lax business registration laws. North Coast Railroad Co. was created using registered agents — firms that can register businesses in multiple states and obscure their true ownership.
Its initial federal filing did not disclose any backers or name Wight or any other party. At the time, the company claimed it was “capitalized to the tune of $1.2 billion.”
But on the heels of the company’s most recent filing in June, Huffman and Thompson, who together represent the North Bay and North Coast in the House, and Padilla, California’s junior senator, accused Wight of submitting a falsified bank statement to the Surface Transportation Board.
The statement was a step in the proposed takeover bid where the North Coast Railroad Co. had to demonstrate the financial wherewithal to cover maintenance costs and the price of scrap steel along the line.
To clear that threshold, the company’s lawyers submitted a bank statement from Self Help Federal Credit Union claiming an account balance of $15.7 million. But the poorly redacted statement indicated the fund’s balance hovered on average around $1,000, and had dipped as low as $69.96 in the weeks before Wight claimed the multimillion dollar sum.
An official with the bank has since cast further doubt on the filing.
“The (document) is not a valid statement from Self-Help Credit Union,” bank spokesperson Jenny Shields wrote in a June 21 email to The Press Democrat.
It’s not clear it if the outcry from the three California lawmakers has spurred any law enforcement involvement. Staff members for Huffman and Padilla told The Press Democrat this week they were not aware of any investigations by authorities.
Having rejected the North Coast Railroad Co.’s bid, the Surface Transportation Board is unlikely to investigate the matter, according to agency spokesperson Michael Booth.
The small agency has about 150 staff. “It’s not like we have an investigative arm,” Booth said.
Wight has not responded to emails and voicemails from The Press Democrat over months since the North Coast Railroad Co.’s first filing last year.
On Wednesday, a person who said his name was Adam and that he was Wight’s assistant responded to a reporter’s latest inquiry.
“I am handling (Wight’s) emails and calls currently due to unfortunate circumstances,” the person wrote, using Wight’s email address with TerraNova Strategies, a Wyoming-registered consulting company where he is a principal. “Mr. Wight is currently in the hospital following an accident and candidly it’s not going the best. We remain hopeful for his recovery, and in the meantime, if you could email any questions you may have, I will do my best to get answers to your inquiries.”
No one responded to a follow-up email from The Press Democrat with questions, including a request for the assistant’s last name and phone number.
'Who is financing the coal train?’
Wimbish, the lawyer with Chicago firm Fletcher and Sippel, has not responded to multiple requests for comment on the allegations of fraudulent filing and other questions about the coal export proposal.
For McGuire, Wimbish’s involvement remains a key unanswered question. A former attorney for the Surface Transportation Board, Wimbish is an experienced railroad attorney.
McGuire cast doubt on the idea Wight alone had the resources to pay for high-powered legal representation.
“Someone was paying one of the most respected attorneys (in the field) trying to advance this proposal,” he said. “Who is financing the coal train?”
In late September, Wight told the Eureka-based Lost Coast Outpost that he was in discussions with “dozens and dozens of shippers” about possibilities for the rail line, were his bid for control of it to succeed. He pushed back on reports that his main intention was shipping coal, but also he declined to rule out that cargo.
Later that month, the Salt Lake Tribune uncovered and published an email indicating that in March 2021, Wight spoke with a Utah state official and the leaders of two federally recognized tribal nations — Montana’s coal-rich Crow Tribe and the Wiyot Tribe whose reservation is on the shore of Humboldt Bay. Earlier reporting in the Lost Coast Outpost indicated Wight had held a meeting in Eureka with a coal-friendly Utah state senator.
But amid intensifying public scrutiny, officials with both the Wiyot Tribe and Utah Inland Port Authority distanced themselves from the project. Both entities said it hadn’t received serious consideration. The Crow Tribe did not respond to requests for comment.
Other ventures under scrutiny
Wight’s other business ventures also raise questions.
Wight’s bank statement showed financial transactions with two other limited liability companies. One is TerraNova Strategies, and the other is Twin Hawkes Development Corporation. Email addresses and phone numbers for the companies posted online also tie them to Wight.
Wight signed a November 2020 report with the Wyoming Secretary of State for TerraNova. Public information about that company’s work is difficult to come by. Its website states the firm operates in business development, government relations and commercial finance. The company also offered to help clients apply for federal COVID-19 small business loans during the onset of the pandemic.
The website lists offices as far afield as Belgium and New Zealand. No one responded to a Press Democrat request for comment submitted via an online form.
In 2016, the California Department of Real Estate filed a “Desist and Refrain” order against Wight and TerraNova Strategies for operating without a real estate license. Wight and his firm “solicited and negotiated a loan transaction” using a California property as collateral, according to Rick Lopes, a spokesperson for the agency. The type and size of the loan, and the type of property, were not immediately available, Lopes said.
Wight did not respond to a question about the desist and refrain order or about the nature and experience of Twin Hawkes and TerraNova.
Online, Twin Hawkes presents itself as “a development corporation focused entirely on historic renovation and redevelopment.” The contact number is a phone number associated with Wight. On a webpage titled “Leadership,” the company lists a number of companies as “strategic partners.”
The first company named is architectural firm Page & Turnbull, which has offices around California. The company has no ties to Twin Hawkes LLC and has written Wight asking for their name to be removed from the website, Page & Turnbull marketing director David Roccosolva told The Press Democrat.
Roccosolva learned his company was listed as Twin Hawkes’ strategic partner after an architect in North Carolina emailed him a warning. It was best to stay away from Twin Hawkes, the architect said.
“I don’t know how we got on (Twin Hawkes’ website),” Roccosolva said, “but I know we never did work with them.”
(Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
CATCH OF THE DAY, June 27, 2022
SEAN BUTLER, Mendocino. DUI.
EMMANUEL CAZORIA-MEJIA, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. Under influence, false ID, failure to appear.
ALEXANDER COAN, Caspar. Assault with firearm, protective order violation.
KYLE COHN, Willits. Resisting, probation revocation.
JESUS HERRERA, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, resisting.
TIA HIGGINS, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
CODY LADD, Ukiah. Parole violation.
STEPHEN LOWE, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
KEVIN LYNCH, Willits. DUI causing bodily injury, child endangerment.
MICHAEL PARKER, Ukiah. County parole violation.
PUT DOWN THE BONG—Pot Users More Likely to Land in Hospital
by Tony Ho Tran
Sorry, pot heads. We’ve got bad news: Your weed smoking habit might just land you in the emergency room—or at least make you more likely to.
In a new study published today in the journal BMJ Open Respiratory Research, Canadian researchers found weed smokers visited the emergency room or were hospitalized 22 percent more than those who didn’t use cannabis. Researchers say that the findings push back against commonly held notions that cannabis is a “safer” drug, and underscores the need for education and awareness around regular pot use.
“Our study demonstrates that the use of this substance is associated with serious negative outcomes, specifically [emergency department] visits and hospitalizations,” Nicholas Vozoris, lead respirologist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and lead author of the study, told The Daily Beast. “Cannabis use needs to be discouraged and reduced in the population, so as to help prevent serious adverse health consequences from happening to individuals and to protect our fragile health-care systems from further strain.”
The study’s authors compared health data from nearly 4,800 people who reported smoking weed in the preceding 12 months with data from 10,000 people who didn’t report any weed use in the same time frame. While they didn’t find a strong connection with pot use and respiratory-related hospital visits and deaths, they did find that overall visits to the emergency room were much more common among users.
In fact, they discovered that one in 25 pot smokers will land in the emergency department within a year of cannabis use. The most common cause of a visit is bodily injury, with 15 percent of users reporting acute trauma. 14 percent also reported going to the hospital due to respiratory issues as well.
“I think our study results should set off alarm bells in the minds of the public, health-care professionals, and political leaders,” Vozaris said. “Cannabis use is on the rise around the world, and in some places, like Canada and certain U.S. states, where its use has been decriminalized, its use has been indirectly green-lighted.”
But it’s important to remember: Correlation doesn’t equal causation. Just because pot smokers find themselves in the hospital more often than those who don’t smoke doesn’t mean that it’s the weed that’s doing it. It could be that those who smoke pot might just tend to be the type of people to accidentally harm themselves, or another reason entirely. However, Vozaris adds that some causes could include the fact that cannabis use “gives rise to sedation that then leads to things like motor vehicle accidents and falls, or cannabis use giving rise to agitation or psychosis that then leads to things like physical altercation and self-harm.”
So, if you really want to avoid the emergency room in the future, it’s probably a good idea to cut back on the bud… at least, just a little bit.
THE CITY’S FINEST HOUR
by Herb Caen
Here today, here tomorrow,
We ain't Sodom or Gomorrah…
Epic times call for epic poems and I'm sorry that's the best I could do on the latest anniversary of the roaring climax to San Francisco's Belle Epoque, the great earthquake and fire. But the truth is that the authentic poets of the time didn't do much better, bogged down as they were in heavy Victoriana. The revered Ina Coolbrith whose salon rang with the hearty jibes of Jack London, Ambrose Bierce, Bret Harte and Joaquin Miller, was so undone by the events of April 18, 1906 that her anguished heart turned to treacle: “In olden days, a child, I trod the sands. The sands unbuilded, rank with brush and briar, and blossom -- chased the sea foam on the strands, young city of my love and my desire,” and so on to, “But I see thee ever as of old! The wraith of pearl, wall, minaret and spire. Framed in the mists that veil thy gate of gold — lost city of my love and my desire!” Later, for reasons that are perfectly obvious, she became poet Laureate of California.
Jenny Crocker Henderson of Hillsborough, a member of the Pioneer Crocker family, was in New York in April of 1906 and attended a lecture by Mark Twain a few days after the earthquake. The ordinarily wry author, moved to tears by the fate of “one of my favorite cities,” read a poem hastily written for the occasion and Mrs. Henderson, then a teenager, wrote it down as he spoke.
“The Stricken City” was the title. “I am swept across the desert by the sorrow of my soul,” began Mark Twain, “to the glowing golden city where the waves of anguished roll/I can see the sheen and shiver that enveloped sky and street/I can see the smiling faces of the friends I used to meet.” I won't detain you further except to mention such memorable images as “supreme Pacific wonder, fair goddess of the gate!” And “Behind the smoke and horror let your prophetic eyes/perceive God's chosen city from your own ashes rise!”
The Mark Twain scholars at the University of California concede that Mark Twain did recite that poem in New York at the time, but they have “serious doubts” that he was the author. This defensive attitude is understandable.
Not all the contemporary poetry was so overblown of course. Charlie Fields' memorable quatrain still has the walloping irreverence we like to think was the style of those times: “If, as they say, God spanked the town for being over frisky; why did he burn the churches down and spare Hotaling's whiskey?” And Larry Harris's “Damnedest Finest Ruins,” written while the city was still smoking, remains the best of the “epics,” with its Kipling-esque, Robert W. Serviceable lilt: “Put me somewhere west of East Street where there's nothing left but dust./where the lads are all abustlin' and where everything is going bust./where the buildings that are standing sort of blink and blindly stare/at the damnedest finest ruins ever gazed on anywhere.”
Harris managed to sustain the cocky mood for four stanzas and he deserves to be remembered lovingly. Shortly before he died in 1966 he murmured: “It was a great show but it wasn't worth the price.” If it happens again, I like to think that our present-day bards (Ferlinghetti, Snyder, McClure, Duncan, Ginsburg) will do as well as Harris — and infinitely better than the others.
It was a time for extravagant rhetoric of course and understandably so: a great and well loved city lay stricken (the style is contagious). Will Irwin wrote a moving newspaper eulogy entitled “The City That Was,” sensing wisely that while Major General A.W. Greely, the martial Law administrator, wrote: “It is safe to say that 200,000 people were brought to a state of complete destitution. Yet I never saw a woman in tears nor heard a man whine over his losses.” (Maybe he didn't get around very much?)
Act of God? Yes. Even an atheist would have to describe another disastrous earthquake as just that and hence San Franciscans, for the most part, seem unconcerned about the possibility. “Uh, I'd run and stand in the doorway. What else?”
Today it's the man-made problems that concern us all and they are of such a magnitude — so far beyond any Richter scale — that any of any act of God must rank far down on the list. Nuclear weapons, warfare, pollution of earth and sky, Pentagonism, the youthquake, the decaying cities and so on. No act of God will solve those although it could only improve the crumbling ghettos. There are greater faults around us than those that are produce earthquakes.
THE MEDIA CELEBRATED JULIAN ASSANGE AND IS NOW TOO AFRAID TO DEFEND HIM
by Patrick Cockburn
It has become easier over the last month for governments to kill or imprison journalists whom they want to silence. But the most sinister aspect of this assault on freedom of speech is that it is facing such limited resistance from the very media that is under attack.
US intelligence agencies concluded in a report declassified by President Joe Biden that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. Biden began by treating him as a pariah, but is now reversing this policy in the run-up to his visit to Saudi Arabia next month which is aimed at persuading MBS to pump more crude to replace Russian exports and bring down the oil price.
In other words, the murderers of Khashoggi have got what they wanted and shown with grisly brutality that no Saudi dissident journalist is safe, a precedent that will be taken to heart in Turkey, where MBS has been visiting this week. All is now forgiven by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, newly allied to Saudi Arabia, while the trial in absentia of the 26 alleged murderers of Khashoggi had already been transferred from Ankara to Riyadh.
A humiliating climbdown
It is a humiliating climbdown by the Biden administration, which justifies it by saying that it is giving priority to combatting Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. But, whatever its cause, the new American line provides a licence to hunt down and eliminate exiled journalists opposing autocratic rule.
But it is not just regimes engaged in a bit of nasty political opportunism who are giving the tyrants a free pass. Pundits openly declare that opposing Russia and China successfully requires conciliating states whose repression of millions-strong religious and ethnic groups, like the Shia in Saudi Arabia and the Kurds in Turkey, should now be dismissed as “casual cruelties” and “human rights abuses”. In future, these failings, so the pundits argue, should attract only the gentlest of taps on the wrist, so that MBS and Erdogan can be recruited to freedom’s cause.
These developments are shocking but they are scarcely surprising as Biden has always been a quick man with a white flag. The US foreign policy establishment has never wanted to abandon its old alliance with the absolute monarchies of the Gulf, whatever atrocities they commit. Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt were, in any case, never likely to close their torture chambers and prisons simply because the US disapproved of them.
This makes the three-year imprisonment and impending extradition to the US of Julian Assange more significant than the Khashoggi case as a threat to democratic freedom. This is because what the WikiLeaks founder is accused of doing by the US government under the Espionage Act is no different from what every journalist should seek to do. His relentless persecution by Western states for publishing a great trove of US government documents in 2010 is simply because he was more successful than other journalists, not that he is different in any other way.
Yet when Home Secretary Priti Patel signed the extradition order on Assange this month, the wardens in Belmarsh prison stripped him naked and threw him into an isolation cell to prevent him committing suicide, according to his wife Stella.
The relentless pursuit of Assange by the US, assisted by the UK, is clearly aimed at intimidating other journalists who might be tempted by a similar giant scoop. Vast efforts have gone into smearing Assange to discredit him and deny him journalistic status.
A cavalier attitude to the facts
Accusations made about him refuted long ago linger on, such as the claim that his disclosures led to the deaths of US agents and informants whose identities were revealed by WikiLeaks. Seeking to substantiate this allegation, the Pentagon set up an Information Review Task Force headed by Brigadier General Robert Carr, who was in charge of a team of 120 counterintelligence officers who tried to compile a list of people killed because of the revelations.
After prolonged investigations, Carr admitted in court in 2013 that his team had failed to find a single person named in the hundreds of thousands of government cables who had died because of them. He added that the closest they had come was when the Taliban said that they had killed a US informant identified by WikiLeaks, but it turned out that the Taliban had lied and “the name of the individual was not in the disclosures”.
Carr’s admission should have discredited this particular allegation but, along with other myths about Assange, it is still cited by his critics, who have a cavalier attitude to the facts, most probably because their assertions are seldom questioned. For instance, deeply damaging allegations of rape were made against Assange in Sweden in 2010. These led to a prosecutorial investigation lasting 10 years which was dropped three times and restarted three times before being finally dropped in 2019 as the statute of limitations approached.
‘Don’t you dare get cold feet!’
In the same year, Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, sent a 19-page letter to the Swedish government which concluded that “since 2010, the Swedish prosecution appeared to [have done] everything to maintain the unqualified ‘rape suspect’ narrative”, without progress being made or any charge issued.
The letter revealed an email exchange between the Swedish prosecutors and the British Crown Prosecution Service during which the latter, reacting to reports that Sweden might drop the investigation, wrote to Sweden’s chief prosecutor: “Don’t you dare get cold feet!”
It should not be necessary to refute or clarify these allegations against Assange since full information about them has long been publicly available. But little of it has appeared in the mainstream media and sometimes it has been ignored entirely. By and large, the campaign of denigration against Assange has succeeded in ensuring that he does not get a hearing and cannot defend himself. This assault has been backed by systematic character assassination with his opponents blithely accusing him of “narcissism” and bad behaviour without producing any evidence of either failing, irrelevant though it would be to his imprisonment and impending extradition.
But what I find most ominous about the Assange case is the willingness of the media to largely ignore it. When WikiLeaks first released its hoard of documents, extracts from them were published in The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El País. None of these publications has campaigned for Assange’s freedom, though if he did anything wrong, then so did they.
Individual journalists see the frightening implications of Assange’s fate for themselves and their profession. Andrew Neil put it well, saying that the stakes are “no less than the future of a free press and, above all, its ability to undertake investigative journalism that embarrasses or shames the powers that be”. He adds that Priti Patel’s decision “hovers like a stake over the heart of these freedoms, which are essential to any proper democracy”.
(Patrick Cockburn is the author of War in the Age of Trump (Verso). Courtesy, CounterPunch.org.)
“THIS IS A GREAT MOMENT IN INTERNET HISTORY.”
Mark Zuckerberg starts to sweat from the interviewers' questions about “instant personalization” (the Orwellian term for the sneaky practice of sharing your personal data without your knowledge, to any paying client he chooses). That's how he became the youngest of the 20 richest billionaires on the planet (although some have suggest he might be from some other one.) Zuckerberg had a personal net worth of 68.6 Billion last May, despite a drop of 25% of his fortune, or $28.6 Billion, last year in 2021. Poor Zuck has a hard time concealing his strange boyish ego, and the interviewers' questions on Facebook's privacy policies soon have him wiping his brow, blurting “Woah!” at the sweat on his sleave. When he has to explain the silky slogans emblazed on the fancy lining of his hoodie, she hands him his ass on a platter. “Oh my God! It's like a secret cult.... and this weird symbol in the middle, probably for the Illuminati.” The audience was laughing at him not with him, as he desperately tries to wipe the sweat pouring off his brow, onto a clueless, classless and colorless grey T-shirt. Fifty billion bucks and he can't buy a suit? God help us, truly one of the great unintended internet moments:
THE TIME OF OUR TIME
by James Kunstler
Let’s face it: most people will not read Justice Alito’s carefully crafted arguments about what the constitution says or doesn’t say about abortion, or the meaning of “ordered liberty” through our history. We do not live in history. We live in the time of our time. And, until just recently, this has been a time that discarded former modes of conduct between men, women, and children as inconvenient to the presumably greater project of self-actualization.
To be-all-that-you-can-be is a stirring notion, and it seemed to work nicely within the colossal techno-industrial armature of the past century, with all its inducements to thrive personally, at least for the comfortable elites who pulled the levers of that system — though not so much for those below caught in the gears, who produced children despite all the novel means for avoiding it. For the fortunate, motherhood became just another “no” box to check off, while fatherhood merged into the odious mists of obsolete patriarchy. History is made up of things that seem like good ideas at the time. The hard part now is moving out of a familiar time into the undiscovered country of a new time.
The support system for all that is going, going, gone and in the ensuing flux all that rousing self-actualization starts to look more like Thomas Hobbes’s war of all against all, a savage and pre-human state of nature. As this occurs, all human beings have to fall back on are modes of conduct that include a moral and ethical dimension, which is to say, what is right and what is wrong, not just what is allowed at a given moment.
Which is also to say: maybe the time of smashing boundaries is over. As that scaffold of techno-industrial comfort and safety disintegrates, and all the dazzling promises of becoming transhuman dissolve — sorry, Klaus Schwab — we will likely have to settle for being human again, and in the best way, not the worst way. That includes a certain reverence for our nature and for each other. That suggests not killing children.
These days, this place on the planet that used to be a nation groans under a tribulation of bad ideas, bad choices, bad conduct, bad management, and bad faith. We have not been so ripe for regime change since 1776. A ruling Party of Chaos is doing absolutely everything to disorder our lives and there really is no generous interpretation for its motives. Everything it touches breaks, wilts, withers, splinters, rots, poisons, and infects the body politic, driving it deeper into derangement. It doesn’t even pretend to make sense because that would require making distinctions between what is true and what’s not true. We follow-the-science into pure evil.
What awaits is the abandond scaffold of the family and the community as opposed to the brute hierarchies of mere lonely, forsaken persons under the leviathan state and the behemoth corporation, which have produced mainly new kinds of cruelties, such as: the deadly “vaccine” mandates, the no-knock FBI visitations, the surveillance cameras, the robotic phone trees with their interminable holds, the obtuse insults of the HR departments, the drag queens twerking in your childrens’ faces, and much more. You might not know it from the news — what is the news now, anyway, except mercenary shuck-and-jive — but these giant governments and corporations are thrashing in their death throes. Get out of their way if you possibly can. Form the bonds you can with people and cherish them. For many, they will be all you’ll have for a while.
You can’t overstate the havoc that we’ll have to live with in the months ahead, short of blowing up the whole joint, one can hope. And it will happen just as a gigantic set of pretenses to a New Order of things rolls out to thumping failure. Forget about central bank digital currencies. Don’t believe that the very people who have severed the relationship between actual capital and money can just magically conjure a new order of money that they propose to control and you don’t. Meanwhile, the old-school money they created too much of is headed for biggest gaping black hole imaginable because that’s what happens when money based on debt is not paid back. So, for a while, there will be too much money and then there will be not enough, and then nobody will have money.
All that happens as the supply of every kind of stuff in the world stops moving from Point A to Point B, including replacement parts for every sort of machine, distribution of petroleum and its products, and food. And at the same time, it finally becomes too obvious to ignore the fact that many millions are dying or becoming disabled from the effects of the mRNA vaccines foisted on the public, especially in the USA and Europe.
Out of all that suffering will eventually come a new respect for human life and reconstructed relations between men and women, with all the abstruse ambiguities, pretensions, and nebulosities about sex put aside for some future age of decadence. It won’t require further agonizing reappraisals by any high courts to figure it out. Children are the consequence of sex. Children are required to carry on the human project.
(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon Page.)
CHUCK DUNBAR: “THEY’RE HERE, the fascists, and they have a bunch of smart, able candidates and officeholders like Vance and DeSantis…”
Our sagacious editor nailed a brief description of Vance, yet another more able guy than Trump, but expertly hopping onboard his train and spouting a similar message.
DeSantis was ably profiled in last week’s New Yorker (June 27th issue) by Dexter Filkins, a distinguished reporter. I had known only a little about this guy, but now know more, none of it good. He is a smart, well-educated, driven, aggressive, politician, lacking in soul and ethics. And, like Trump, he is basically a fascist. Filkins note that he has often been described as “Trump with a brain.” His politicization of Covid—and refusal to employ common safety measures in Florida—cost that state many lives.
A quotation regarding DeSantis’ lack of concern for public interests and feedback: “Those who work closely with him say that he is unique in his disregard for public opinion and the press. ‘Ron’s strength as a politician is that he doesn’t give a fuck,’ a Republican consultant who knows him told me. ‘Ron’s weakness as a politician is that he doesn’t give a fuck’…”
Another Republican consultant, Stuart Stevens, who advised Romney’s presidential campaign, noted that DeSantis is following Trump’s playbook. “To me, Ron DeSantis is a fairly run-of-the-mill politician who will do anything to get elected…The problem is what the Party has become. It’s a race to the bottom.”
These are both scary guys who just want power and privilege–again, like Trump–and do not seem deeply moved to serve the country and the people. God save us from them. We deserve–and desperately need–better leaders.
DEB WHITE: A Tale of Privilege
In 1967 I graduated from college in Pennsylvania and drove across country with my younger brother and two college friends to begin a PhD program at Stanford. When we got to Berkeley we had a place to stay. My brother and one of the friends left. The other one, Henry, whom I'd always thought was a real dweeb, turned out to be quite an ardent lover. Guess what - I got pregnant!! I went to an OBGYN in Palo Alto. I chose him because his name sounded Jewish. He told me to go to Japan, where abortion was legal, and gave me the name of a clinic. I called Henry, who was beginning graduate school in Wisconsin. He asked me to marry him (wasn't that sweet?) and sent me the plane fare. I went to Tokyo. Spent most of the time in art studios looking at prints.
TO JUDY VIDAVER (From Ruby Gold, MCN Chatline)
I am directly connected to about 300 people and by their friends and relations, probably double that. These people, if not every single one, are overwhelmingly, vaxxed and boosted and not one person has died from the vaccine or suffered any noticeable side effects — and not one of them has died from Covid. A few have gotten cold-like cases of Covid. This is direct experience. If your claims that the vaccine is “murdering loved ones,” had any validity at all, wouldn't it show up, at least a little, in the reality realm of direct experience? Be honest Judy - do you know anyone you can substantiate that has died from the vaccine? For everyone’s sake, for a true reality check, leave the virtual world and join the land of still alive and living.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Regarding needing those kids:
As a young guy growing up–until I was 60–I didn’t really think a lot about abortion, as I made sure that it never affected me; i.e., I never got anyone pregnant–by very deliberate and careful planning. And I wasn’t that opposed to abortion, as I thought of it; i.e., more or less the “clump of cells” thing.
But, of course, “Here. Take this inch…”
Then we have the predictable response by the child mind of the average Democrat, and soon we have doctors inserting chainsaws into vaginas to hack the limbs off of the nine-month old before that sucker squeezes out–which would then require was is commonly referred to as murder.
Now I am fully pro-life. Some exceptions; the usual ones that are proposed.
No more inches, Democrats. We’re gonna put you all back in your high chairs, and we’ll let you down when you grow up.
MIGRANT JUSTICE MEANS FACING ROOT CAUSES
by David Bacon
At the end of the just-concluded Summit of (some of) the Americas, President Joe Biden announced a “Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection,” claiming that participant countries are “transforming our approach to managing migration in the Americas … [recognizing] the responsibility that impacts on all of our nations.”
Recognizing that the U.S. has some responsibility for addressing the causes of migration is important. But President Biden stopped well short of acknowledging the U.S.’s two centuries of intervention in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, which lies at the root.…
JAN. 6 PANEL ABRUPTLY SETS TUESDAY HEARING on “Recently Obtained Evidence”
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is expected to hear public testimony on Tuesday from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Mark Meadows, the final chief of staff for President Donald J. Trump, according to people familiar with the matter.…
JUST IN FROM OUR PARIS BUREAU
A German friend who lives here sent me this today: a front page from a French newspaper. Yes, yes, leave it to the French!
CALLIN DISCUSSION ON TUESDAY, 1 p.m. EST: On interviewing with Ben Shapiro, the end of Roe, and the death of Normie politics
Catching up on Callin after a wild weekend
by Matt Taibbi
Late last week, I had a long and really interesting discussion with conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, which he ran yesterday as his Sunday Special. The interview was remarkable on a number of fronts, beginning with the fact that such a meeting would have been unthinkable for a slew of reasons even ten years ago, and ending with Roe v. Wade being overturned about ten minutes after we finished talking.
I have a piece coming out about the latter issue, but I also wanted to schedule a Callin for tomorrow, June 28th, at 1:00 p.m. EST to discuss all of this. I’ve already taken criticism just for doing the interview, ironic given how mild and uncontroversial most of the talk was. This is what counts as heretical now: two people who don’t agree about everything Zooming for an hour without screaming at one another. Anyway, please join me tomorrow afternoon for a wrap-up, as well as a discussion about Dobbs v. Jackson and a piece I have coming out called, “Taking the Neither Pill.”
TAKING THE NEITHER PILL
On talking with Ben Shapiro, the death of Roe v. Wade, and the end of Normie politics
by Matt Taibbi
Last Thursday, I sat in a studio in Newark for the above interview with Ben Shapiro. It was a wide-ranging and oddly friendly discussion between a former Breitbart staffer and the author of Andrew Breitbart’s mostly infamously obscene obituary, in which the fact that the interview could even happen at all was among the most interesting things about it (more on this on a Callin discussion tomorrow).
Ben and I talked about how it was the political left that years ago was famous for being willing to engage anyone, while the business model of right-wing media was a heated conversation with itself about an always-expanding regimen of enemies, a catastrophic strategy that allowed the Jon Stewarts and not-yet-unfunny Stephen Colberts of the world to win huge audiences by default. Add the lack of a sense of humor, which made Frank Zappa, Larry Flynt, and Dee Snider automatic winners over crusading curmudgeons like Jerry Falwell and John Tower, and the culture war for decades was never a real battle. “There’s no question that the left had been in the ascendancy my entire lifetime,” is how Shapiro put it.
Now the script is flipped. The press mainstream has borrowed from the old Fox model and not only (as Shapiro notes) excludes dissent via the “laundering of expertise” but leads interminable crusades against an exploding list of deviationists within their own ranks. You may have thought you were solidly a progressive, but you can catch a permanent green-room ban for going against narrative on any issue, whether it’s Syria or Ukraine or Russiagate or trans issues or any of a hundred other things. This is the same losing strategy that hurt the old GOP, which logically should lead to the same losing outcome, except this is a political atmosphere where no one seems to be winning.
On Friday, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision granting women a constitutional right to abortion. This exact moment was supposedly why I owed my vote to the Democratic Party, and indeed the Supreme Court was on my mind when I pulled a lever for Hillary Clinton, a politician I couldn’t stand, in 2016.
Four years later, I voted neither. The Democrats between 2016 and 2020 not only lost my vote, but reveled in the idea that they didn’t need or want it, denouncing critics in all directions as traitors, white supremacists, and terrorists, no different from the “deplorables” who voted for Donald Trump. In that time they perfected an attitude of imperious condescension and entitlement so grating that at least half of America wouldn’t piss on someone like Adam Schiff if he were on fire. Then Friday happened and it was the same song everywhere: “See! We were right all along! You do owe us! And if you ever criticized us, this was your fault!”
No, it wasn’t. Friday was the result of decades spent building a political project so incoherent, unsellable, and untrustworthy to ordinary people that in 2016 they chose Donald Trump over the person Barack Obama called the most qualified candidate in history. The justices who cast the critical votes Friday were picked by a man denounced by all of institutional America prior to election. All those voices were ignored. That total collapse in trust, not Jill Stein’s candidacy or Putin’s Facebook ads, led to Dobbs v. Jackson. Until Democrats reckon with that problem, which incidentally spread to every category of voter except white men in 2020 and looks poised to spread even more in the midterms, there will be more moments like this.
Or maybe not. The other side of this coin is that Dobbs might remind a lot of moderates what it was about Republicans that freaked them out so much once upon a time.
Like, I suspect, a lot of America, I feel politically homeless. Life in this country increasingly is like watching a ping-pong match between the two most unhinged people in the institution. How did we get here, and what happened to the mighty engine of dependable non-change that was America just a few years ago?
Before 2016 the choices were distasteful but clear. The “transactional” Democrats represented by Clinton and Obama were vile two-faced cynics, but the pre-Trump Republicans were an even worse joke. The old GOP was a crude political heart-lung machine, in which the interests of job-exporting manufacturers, energy executives, and weapons makers were carried to Washington atop the votes of middle- and working-class conservatives.
To me the marriage of laissez-faire corporatism and religious social conservatism always seemed tenuous and absurd, especially since I’d gone to fancy schools with the sons and daughters of America’s corporate leaders and knew these people had nothing but contempt for the megachurch flyover territories where they hunted votes.
Rich coastal Republicans for decades voted on the assumption that their party would never deliver on the big asks coming from the base: school prayer, banning naughty books and art, overturning or advancing gay rights, etc. Abortion was the big one. Not only were corporate leaders increasingly women, but the campus Republican types I’d known who carried the Weekly Standard around, went to Ivy League schools, and worked in places like Washington or Wall Street, they had daughters and girlfriends, too. Most of these people were neither religious nor social conservatives in any real sense, a fact since borne out in the dramatic shift in the voting behaviors of the very wealthy, who’ve made an unsurprisingly effortless transition to overwhelming support of Democrats.
Because the old GOP donor class had no natural connection to the Middle American voters they claimed to represent, their only workable political strategy for decades was to hire as frontmen a parade of pious, dog-whistling flag-wavers who pretended to be patriots but earned their keep handing out bailouts or corporate tax breaks. It takes a particularly ridiculous kind of person to be good at that job. The signature Republican policy ploy involved people like Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed lobbying to exempt the Northern Marianas Islands from minimum wage and safety laws.
Reed sold the American territory as a place where workers would be “exposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ,” with many converting and returning “to China with Bibles in hand.” Only it later came out in a Department of Labor report that many of these sweatshop — er, textile workers — were “subject to forced abortions and… forced prostitution in the local sex-tourism industry,” as the Washington Post put it.
My lasting campaign image of pre-Trump Republicans attempting to connect with ordinary voters was Mitt Romney putting on stonewash jeans to look “regular” on the stump, as he warned of a “prairie fire of debt” sweeping across America during his 2012 campaign. The Mittster scrupulously avoided the words “private equity” in those speeches and in impressive fashion escaped mention that his business model involved adding massively to that very “prairie fire” by saddling targets of his hostile takeovers with hundreds of millions in new debt, often leading to waves of layoffs.
The virtue in Donald Trump’s act in 2016 was that he exposed politicians like this, from Little Marco to Jeb to John “1 for 38“ Kasich, lampooning them as the frauds they are. He spelled out how Republicans had sold out their voters, often mocking their transparent pretensions to regular-person status, going after everything from Rand Paul’s golf game to Jeb’s mom-love to Rick Perry’s smart glasses. It took a while, but Trump’s son Donald, Jr. even eventually went after those jeans of Romney’s.
When Trump sealed up the nomination after the Indiana primary in 2016, I thought his legacy would be the destruction of these Grand Old Phonies, and wrote a gloating epitaph:
Their leaders, from Ralph Reed to Bill Frist to Tom DeLay to Rick Santorum to Romney and Ryan, were an interminable assembly line of shrieking, witch-hunting celibates, all with the same haircut—the kind of people who thought Iran-Contra was nothing, but would grind the affairs of state to a halt over a blow job or Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube.
Once, the small-town American was Gary Cooper: tough, silent, upright and confident. The modern Republican Party changed that person into a haranguing neurotic who couldn’t make it through a dinner without quizzing you about your politics. They destroyed the American character. No hell is hot enough for them…
Trump’s pantsing of the Clown Car was great theater and would have been remembered as funny, had it culminated in the expected ending of a loss and four or eight years of Hillary Clinton as a conventionally shitty president. I even had a lede written for Election Night that year: “By 2023, the sound of her voice will shatter glass and send dogs and people yelping into the woods…”
Then the Democrats holed the world’s most difficult tee shot and somehow lost that race, leading to the insane divide of now. Trump instantly surrounded himself with the same scumbag insiders and oligarchs he’d run against, effectively announcing from the jump he was full of it. Hiring a spate of Goldman executives like Gary Cohn and Steve Mnuchin during his transition, minutes after running Protocols of the Elders of Zion-style ads warning about the bank as part of the “corrupt machine” of “global special interests” who “bled our country dry,” was a particularly nice touch.
Trump’s other giant head-scratcher was spending the 2020 presidential election trying to paint Joe Biden — as dyed-in-the-wool a representative of the permanent political establishment as has ever walked American soil — as a “probably communist“ radical. Trump’s political instincts, even if not always thought out, were usually effective on some level, but he abandoned his successful 2016 strategy of running as an outsider and instead tried to present himself, Donald Trump, as the “very stable” protector of the institutional middle.
Then, when he lost, he went bananas and ratified every criticism the “totally dishonest” media ever made about him being an existential threat to democracy. Even though a lot of Trump’s bad press was and is bogus, a lot of it isn’t, and especially in his post-presidency, he’s pulled off the seemingly impossible and just by being his usual batshit self made the Democratic Party — now more or less openly the bumbling American branch office of the loathsome Davos elite — seem like a viable electoral choice, even to the people most harmed by globalization and neoliberal economics.
After Clinton’s loss I would have bet every dollar on Democrats embarking on a period of soul-searching, asking how they could have lost to a foul-mouthed game-show host who’d insulted veterans, women, immigrants, the disabled, Asians (“We want deal!”), and virtually every other major voting demographic, even violating the ultimate campaign rule by asking Iowans if they had “issues in the brain“ from too much Monsanto corn. Any rational organization suffering such a loss would have undergone a thorough overhaul.
No luck. Democrats did the opposite in the Trump years, blaming everyone from Susan Sarandon to James Comey to Vladimir Putin to “millions of white people” to Bernie Sanders (“His attacks caused lasting damage”) to Barack Obama, about whom Hillary said:
I do wonder sometimes about what would have happened if President Obama had made a televised address to the nation in the fall of 2016 warning that our democracy was under attack. Maybe more Americans would have woken up to the threat in time…
This, from the same candidate who’d tried to torpedo Obama’s candidacy in 2008 by leaking photos of him dressed as a Somali elder and telling a McClatchy editor that Obama was born in Kenya, prompting the agency to send a reporter there to check it out! The allegations that Obama was somehow not a “real” American, just a pretty maker-of-speeches like Martin Luther King who “needed a president to get it done,” so infuriated Obama that he made a point of tearing Donald Trump a new one at the 2011 White House correspondents’ dinner, reportedly the moment that provoked Trump to run for the White House.
Add the infamous “pied piper candidates“ memo suggesting the Clinton campaign actually wanted to run against Trump, and one can make a convincing argument that the Clintons themselves, more than any quantity of Susan Sarandons, were responsible for Trump’s win, and by extension the events of this past Friday.
With the party’s pathetic collapses on issues like the Iraq War, drones, surveillance, military spending, NAFTA, mass incarceration, “community policing,” and the failure to prosecute financial corruption after 2008 (with corporate defense lawyer Eric Holder’s Justice Department outdoing even John Ashcroft’s in the soft-touch department), and I already felt nauseous supporting Clinton in 2016. I remember, as I voted, thinking of her response to the question of why she’d accepted $675,000 in speeches from Goldman, Sachs, the company whose culpability in helping cause the 2008 crash I’d spent years writing about. “That’s what they offered,” she said. Talk about not having pride in your work! Any politician who doesn’t even feel obligated to lie to the public in embarrassing situations doesn’t deserve high office.
For all that, I kept voting for Democrats, convinced by what seemed their last viable argument, which came down to the Supreme Court and the likelihood that a Democrat would nominate slightly less shitty judges than Republicans. Supposedly, if you care about issues like choice, and I am pro-choice, you had no choice but to vote blue.
This made sense until the party and its pals in media went on to spend all of the Trump years excommunicating pro-choice voices across the landscape, from Joe Rogan to Dave Chappelle to Tulsi Gabbard to, yes, Susan Sarandon and the would-be tip of the choice spear, i.e. gender-critical feminists now regularly denounced as TERFs. The Bush-era Republicans talked about “real Americans” and the current Democrats talk about “allies,” but it’s the same thing, an exclusive club you can be booted out of for any of a hundred reasons. At the very moment Democrats are claiming they need every last vote to defend the country against a fascist takeover, they’re hurling masses of people over the edge as heretics who otherwise would have been loyal voters. It’s a different species of madness from the one infecting Trump, but madness it is, nonetheless.
I remember choices like Dukakis versus Bush, which was like two versions of the same mathematically absolute impossibility of change. Absent a big shift, the next choice will be two arguments for civil war. Does anyone else miss boredom?