Press "Enter" to skip to content

Mendocino County Today: Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022

Heat Wave | Slab Bid | FFA Popcorn | Best Lasagna | Sharkey Art | Engine Repair | Pet Winnie | Cooling Shelters | Millpond | School News | Whitely Graduates | Elected Officials | Campers | Ukiah Sucks | AV Brewing | Sammy Prather | Yesterday's Catch | Divine Absolute | Go Dems | Florence Larsen | Homelessness | Mill Fire | Power Politics | Lyons Kids | Homeless People | Good Journalism | 2023mobile | Blue Whales | Recycle Not | Thermal Scopes | Barbara Ehrenreich | Fire Hosed | Biden Speech | Brown Enough | Rogan Tour | PPP Loans | Tell Dad | Marco Radio | Vending Machine

* * *

A WARMING TREND is expected this week with temperatures expected to peak on Tuesday across the interior with temperatures of 100 to 110. Much cooler temperatures and late night and morning low clouds and fog will still be found along the coast. Some of the fog may be dense at the coast each night. (NWS)

FORECAST HIGHSSunMonTuesWedThurs
Ukiah104°110°113°108°107°
Boonville103°108°110°101°99°
Fort Bragg61°62°64°64°63°

* * *

WANNA LAY A SLAB?

The Anderson Valley Community Services District seeks bids from qualified contractors for a concrete slab project in Philo. Bids due by 5 pm on Friday, September 9th.

Anticipated contract award 9/12/2022. Call 707-895-2020 or email admin@andersonvalleyfire.org for specifications/bid package or other info.

* * *

* * *

MARINO’S LASAGNA!

I had to do some shopping in Ukiah today and decided to do my laundry while I was there. I went to the little wash & dry on Talmadge Ave. After starting my laundry I realized I hadn't had anything to eat today and looked down the row of shops to see what was available close by. Two shops down was a place called Marino's Pizza and restaurant. They advertised lasagna and that sounded good to me. I walked in to find the place totally without customers and questioned my judgment on coming here. I was immediately greeted enthusiastically and politely by the young man working the counter and before he finished a woman (obviously the cook, and probably owner) who also enthusiastically welcomed me. I ordered the lasagna not expecting it to be all that great. Surprise! It was promptly served to me with homemade garlic bread and the first bite snapped me into reality. This was the best lasagna I had eaten in my life. The food was great, the service incredible and the price very reasonable. The atmosphere was very Italian and quaint. I could go on forever, but do yourselves a favor next time you're in Ukiah and try this place. If you're not thrilled with every aspect of it let me know and I will give you the price of your meal there.

— Ernie Pardini

* * *

AT PARTNERS GALLERY, 45062 Ukiah St., Mendocino, 707 962-0233, www.partnersgallery.com, partners@mcn.org

* * *

SMALL ENGINE REPAIR SERVICE in Anderson Valley

Hello everyone!!! I am ready to take all the machines you guys need fixed. I can fix anything from a weedwacker all the way up to an atv and motorcycle and much more. Even if you have anything you need fixed just ask me and I’ll let you know if I can fix it. If you need a machine fixed call me or shoot me a text. My phone number is (707)684-6449. I have put business cards in most stores in the valley and I have a ton if anyone is interested. Thank you for your time and I hope seeing you soon!

— Daniel Garibay

* * *

UKIAH SHELTER PET OF THE WEEK

Like most dogs, Winnie enjoys getting out and about for walks and lots of sniffing, and she is easy to walk on-leash.

Indoors, she is very well mannered. Winnie is a smart girl who’s had some training and knows sit, down, and she can catch treats tossed to her. Ms. W is food-motivated, which will make further training easy and fun. We think Winnie would do well in a home with a canine housemate. Winnie is 4 years old and a svelte 62 pounds. If you can’t adopt, consider fostering. Visit http://www.mendoanimalshelter.com/ for more information about Winnie, and our Foster Program, the on-going Summer Dog Adoption Event, all of our dog and cat guests, and our programs, services and updates. 

Visit us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/mendoanimalshelter/ For information about adoptions, please call 707-467-6453.

* * *

A READER WRITES: Re: Cloverdale homeless in danger 

…If you think it helpful, please forward that to cloverdale p.d. (not that they haven't already thought of the coming situation...) 114 degrees in Cloverdale 9/7. How does anyone survive that. Perhaps police can start making sure now, there will be cooling places ready, for ALL, by wed, homeless or not. Many low income renters, with children, have no a/c. Start putting up notices everywhere, along the street, at bus stops, etc. where homeless congregate, in spanish too. School gymnasiums, library...police should be on lookout, all day, while driving, for street folks, homeless and otherwise, who look like they need an immediate ride, to a 'cooling shelter'. They should notify all business owners, now, to allow a certain number of 'distressed' people, to come in and sit, in designated areas within the business. No one should be turned away, including their dogs... 

PS. Why doesn’t Anderson Valley put up large windmills, along the windiest ridgetops, to power electricity for the entire valley. No more PG@E devastation, like what was done below Mountain House Estates... 

* * *

Millpond and Pier, Union Lumber, Fort Bragg, 1933

* * *

WRITING PROMPTS

Dear Mr. Anderson,

We are very fortunate to be utilizing the expertise of retiree, Kim Campbell, on a weekly writing prompt for all 7th-12th graders. I truly believe if you have fluency and automaticity in written language, you will be successful in college and career. She is reading and correcting many of them, and I read and comment on them all too. I continue to be impressed by the depth of some students' understanding of their job at school. My highlight prompt this week is from tenth grader, Emilia Bennett:

Dear Emilia,

I am just reading your writing prompt of "Advice to a younger student", and it is so good, I want to share with your mom and the world.

EMILIA’S WRITING:

“Based off of my experience of freshman year, the best way to succeed is to try. It won't matter very much if you are good at a certain subject, so long as you put effort in your work. This is the advice that my mother gave (and still gives) to me. It can be applied to academics, sports, and real world situations, such as having a job. Whatever the case, that is my advice to succeed for the ninth graders, both in and out of school for the year, and many more to come.”

Absolutely Stellar, Miss Emilia.

* * *

Dear Anderson Valley Community,

We are in the process of creating a post graduation survey to be mailed to our last four graduating classes and annually thereafter. We have two staff members making calls to families about what the students are doing in their post high school career and college plans. This helps us to retool our programs and ensure we are maximizing our educational and career success for our students. Any information you can share about their post high school careers and education is appreciated. A paper survey will also be mailed. Information is confidential and is analyzed to make sure we are successfully preparing our graduates for career and college.

Please, if your student is exhibiting cold or flu symptoms, please call the appropriate school office and keep them home, even if they test negative. The staff and other students appreciate your care. Please make sure you call the office in order for the absence to be excused and to facilitate receiving your students’ work, so they can keep up to date with their studies.

Just a reminder, this week is a two bus week run in the afternoon due to mechanical part delays.

With deepest appreciation,

Sincerely yours,

Louise Simson, Superintendent, Anderson Valley Unified School District, Cell: 707-684-1017

* * *

CONGRATULATIONS to Zachery Whitely for his graduation from Basic Combat Training this week in South Carolina!

Zach Whitely

* * *

MEET & GREET RETURNS!

“Meet & Greet Your Elected Officials” returns! After 2 1/2 years, the League of Women Voters of Mendocino County is pleased to again host this event. The event will be held outside at the Caspar Community Center, on Friday, September 16, from 5-7 pm. All county, city and district elected officials are invited, as well as those running for office. But there are no speeches, and there is no agenda - just a chance to chat one-on-one with officials over snacks and beverages. County Supervisors, city council members, school and fire district board members and more are expected, and possibly representatives from Congressman Huffman, Senator McGuire and Assemblyman Wood. This event has been very popular in the past; the public is cordially invited. For more information, call 707-937-4952.

* * *

Boyle's Camp, Big River, 1915

* * *

WHY UKIAH SUCKS

Editor,

The following is not an indictment or attack on the people of the greater Ukiah area. I have countless friends and family members who live there. My wife and I have recently moved to the White Mountain area of Arizona. I was a vineyard manager in Ukiah area for 30 years, then I did the same job in Philo for 14 harvests.

Hot Weather. Ukiah is friggin HOT in the summertime. When I moved to Redwood Valley with my parents in July of 1971 that day hit something like 117. There are easily 80-100 days from June to September that can be miserable. After farming and living in Philo for a short time, it became very clear the weather in Ukiah sucks. Afternoon temps in Philo are easily 10-15 degrees lower than Ukiah.

Homeless/Addicted/Crazy People. After returning to Ukiah recently, there they were....... wandering around all areas of town. Call them what you wish, but they have been there for decades. Mumbling, often aggressive pushing grocery carts or pitching a tent near the RR tracks. Ukiah gov't or leadership just turns a blind eye. I've seen so many folks from the 'frequent flyer' list in The Ava, I'm starting to know them by name.

Planning. Certainly not my area of expertise, but upon our recent visit I was excited to see a new cookie store go up where Talmage road meets State street. A pretty nice blue building. Then some locals told me it was a new dispensary. Really? Like the town needed another one! And then there's Mike Maguire's hobo highway.

Lack of Economic Opportunity. Where's the decent paying jobs? Who's producing a product.....except for Factory Pipe? Luckily they don't build something to use from the dispensary. When my folks moved to the area there was Masonite, Carousel Carpet and a couple lumber mills. Now one of the better jobs is cart collecting at Costco?

Lack of Natural Attraction. Ukiah doesn't have anything to hang its hat on except for maybe Montgomery Woods? There's no magnificent mountain or river nearby to enjoy. There's tens of thousands of acres of Cow Mountain.... a dry brush covered mess that needs to burn every 10 years. Russian River has turned into a slow flowing garbage and toilet for the homeless.

A Mediocre Wine Industry. Except for a handful of serious and dedicated producers, the inland wine biz is a joke. Obviously a sector I have some knowledge of. When the wine commission was formed almost 20 years ago, people said Ukiah area needed 2-3 50,000 case wineries to pop up. As many folks know up to 65% of the grapes from Mendo leave the county to become the cheap out-of-county blender in Napanoma wines.

Casey Hartlip

Lakeside, Arizona

* * *

Anderson Valley Brewing

* * *

OH SAMMY BOY

by Ken Hurst

The Columbia sheep were bleating sadly, Where is our master? He is always on time. The birds were flying low and they answered, He is gone.

The large and perfect ram said, My ancestors said proudly, “We are the best of all time. We may have won another Cracked Bell for being the Top Ram, the Best Ewe, with the best conformity of the flock. Our gentle master won the Cracked Bell two times. Once in San Francisco and once in Seattle. He is the only one to ever win that award two times. He was officially the best breeder of Columbia sheep in the world.”

I asked Sammy Prather one time a long time ago, “Why do they call the prestigious award the ‘Cracked Bell’? Sammy replied, ‘I don't know, but I guess somebody won it and then dropped it and caused it to crack’.”

Ranchers from around the world came to Sammy's Boonville ranch from Australia and New Zealand and Ireland and all over the Americas wherever they raise sheep to give him a world championship party for being the best breeder in the world.

That girl who lived with him then was the most beautiful cheerleader from Mendocino. Then she became a roommate for Sammy. But there was no marriage. When she understood this for sure, she painted “F___ Y__” (without the blanks) all over his house and garage while his yellow pickup looked on with disgust.

Later Sammy and Christine worked hard to blot that off of their house.

The big sheep breeders from around the world roared with laughter when Sandy told them what happened to his house.

She stole that yellow pickup and parked it in Santa Rosa where the police found it after a few days.

I loved Sammy Prather from the third grade on throughout our 80 years of fun and work and friendship.

* * *

CATCH OF THE DAY, September 3, 2022

Betts, Campbell, Chamberlain

JOSHUA BETTS, Willits. DUI with priors in last ten years.

ANDRU CAMPBELL, Ukiah. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun, protective order violation, county parole violation, resisting.

JOHN CHAMBERLAIN, Hydesville/Ukiah. Narcotics sales, paraphernalia, suspended license.

Cooper, Demers, Gibson, Giglio

TIMMY COOPER, Ukiah. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun, battery with serious injury, parole violation.

PATRICK DEMERS, Sebastopol/Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

SHELLY GIBSON, Willits. Controlled substance for sale, under influence, conspiracy.

DAVID GIGLIO, Redwood Valley. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation.

Holmes, Jordan, Kozeluh

DANIEL HOLMES, Ukiah. Narcotics for sale, pot for sale, felon with stun gun, contempt of court.

DUSTIN JORDAN, Willits. Under influence, controlled substance, obstruction of justice, county parole violation.

TIMOTHY KOZELUH, Willits. Domestic battery.

Lewis, McGee, Menear

JAKE LEWIS-KODY, Ukiah. Shoplifting.

MICHAEL MCGEE, Ukiah. Failure to appear.

JUSTICE MENEAR, Clearlake Oaks/Ukiah. Attempted 2nd Degree…” [Charge truncated]

* * *

PROVE IT!

The Last Word: “Everything physical and mental is a reflection of the Divine Absolute.”

Craig Louis Stehr

* * *

THE DISLOYAL OPPOSITION

Dear Editor;

No wonder the Republican Party is working to destroy our democracy. They oppose most things Americans want.

For example, while 62% of Americans believe abortion should be legal, 99% of House Republicans recently voted against it.

While 70% of Americans support gay marriage, 77% of House Republicans voted against it.

And while 90% of Americans believe in their right to use contraceptives, 96% of House Republicans voted against it.

The laws protecting these rights passed through the House thanks to overwhelming Democratic support but will have trouble getting past a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

If you believe in democracy, help get more Democrats elected, especially to the Senate, since Democrats support and protect what Americans want while Republicans work to end their rights and freedoms. While Republicans endanger our democracy, please vote Democratic to keep it alive and healthy.

Tom Wodetzki

Albion

* * *

Florence Larsen, Albion, 1938

* * *

HOMELESSNESS WAS A MAJOR TOPIC WHEN I ARRIVED IN 1980, AND IF ANYTHING IT’S GOTTEN WORSE.

It continues to baffle me why we let individuals who are clearly, tragically mentally ill roam the streets. People who are barefoot and screaming to the sky. They are obviously desperately unhappy and unable to care for themselves.

And yet, despite new laws that would allow them to be placed in conservatorships, where they would get mandatory care, we rarely give them that help. When we try, critics rail against a loss of civil liberties and insist that they be allowed to stay on the sidewalk, unsheltered.

I know I’ve been a broken record about this, but talk to the families of those individuals. They aren’t advocating for them to stay on the street. They are begging for help, for a safe place and treatment for their loved ones. Ignoring them just seems cruel.

And it is exasperating to see the constant civic bickering over the same problems. Homelessness was a major topic when I arrived in 1980, and if anything, it’s gotten worse.

I thought that the way it would work would be that the bright minds in the city — and there are plenty of them — would come up with an innovative plan to address the problem.

And, frankly, it probably wouldn’t work. Homelessness is a tough one.

But, I thought, there might be a part of the new plan that held some promise. Gavin Newsom’s Care Not Cash was a good one, for instance.

And those bright minds would take that part that worked and build on it. There’d be another plan which might not work, but it might have some helpful features that could be part of the next new plan.

And we’d move forward.

Instead it just seems like an endless cycle of arguing and complaining. It seems advocacy groups are against nearly every new idea. OK, so what is their plan? What are you for? 

— C.W. Nevius

* * *

The Mill Fire glows at night on Friday, Sept. 2, 2022 southeast of Mt. Shasta as seen from the Weed airport in Northern California. Pushed by strong wind that afternoon, the fast-moving fire raced up the hills west of Weed. The blaze injured people and destroyed homes in Weed and Lake Shastina. (courtesy Loki Boone)

* * *

LIGHTING UP YOUR LIFE

by Marilyn Davin

Does anybody around here remember California Governor Gray Davis? You know, the guy who so hopefully set up extra card tables at the Capitol to battle energy monster Enron during the 2000-2001 Energy Crisis? Didn't think so. Davis’s gubernatorial neck did not survive the political guillotine of public outrage that fueled his subsequent recall. Why? The lights went out. Environmental issues like air pollution, fish kills, and protests over tree cutting were all kicked to the curb. And just like back then, using right-of-way tree removal as just one simple example, those lauding their own risk-free efforts to block utility crews will be first in line to call for Newsom's head when a tree in an overhead right-of-way predictably succumbs to gravity and falls into one of those lines and ignites a wildfire. A rare political truth in politics is that no leader escapes the ax when electricity delivery fails. Nobody. 

Those who still swoon over reruns of Jane Fonda's film, The China Syndrome (significant contributor to nuclear power's death knell in California), should wake up and smell the cappuccino they just poured from that shiny-new plug-in appliance – and in the process consider a few basic energy facts: 

1) No electricity generation is without some risk - get over it.

2) The notion that intermittent renewable sources of electricity are currently waiting around for us to reap their benefits is a pipe dream: Hydro is waaay tapped out, and the trend today is tearing down existing dams, not building new ones; wind power, as its name implies, uses wind as its energy source, available only a fraction of the time; California and the feds are paying wealthy Californians to install rooftop solar, which requires a functional distribution and transmission grid to “sell back” excess electricity for utility-bill offsets; and a sure route to blackouts is paved with electric car chargers, where fiscally enriched owners are already being warned against charging during high-peak electricity demand periods.

3) Nuclear power plants do not emit greenhouse gases like fossil-fueled plants, which we know are big-time contributors to the known and documented existential threat of global warming. Nuclear power plants are baseload plants, which means they can operate full tilt, all the time. Diablo Canyon supplies California with a hair under 10% of the electricity all Californians consume, and according to the California Energy Commission’s 2021 stats, the state’s natural gas power plants contributed an additional 50.2%. Renewable resources can’t replace that generation overnight (or fast enough to avoid tanking political careers before future elections). The political stakes could hardly be higher. 

Finally when it comes to policies that could impose limits on our overactive collective sense of entitlement, idealistic platitudes not based on science immediately spark outrage. What? No electricity? How am I supposed to heat/cool my house, use my computer, cook my food, in other words, live? It’s been generations since 24/7 always-available electricity became the norm. We’ve forgotten what life was like without it. (I recommend the first volume of the massive Lyndon Johnson biography regarding rural electrification for a refresher.) We forget – or never knew – that electricity must be generated and transmitted to customers. And even if you generate it yourself on your roof you need a transmission grid so your utility can buy some of it back from you. The topper is our foolish optimism that someone, somewhere (default: science) will quickly figure out these problems and come up with an instant solution. The latest is batteries. In this scenario storage batteries will save us all. You know, batteries, the things you can’t throw away in the regular trash because they contain sodium chloride, chloric acid, nitric acid, potassium nitrate, hydrochloric acid, potassium nitrate, sulfuric acid, sodium hydroxide, magnesium hydroxide, and sodium acetate? Formulas vary according to size but none are good environmental news.

When I taught English in Turkey back in the day I used to stand on the balcony and watch as electric light crawled around the bay toward me as it delivered its two hours of electricity in the morning and two hours in the evening. It was just the way it was; there was simply not enough electricity for everyone to have it all the time. Run by the Turkish government, this electricity rationing necessity was a purely technical issue. 

Here in California there are also technical issues surrounding the state’s transition to more carbon-neutral electricity. But, unlike in Turkey, Newsom would face an inevitable, painful political demise if the lights go out on his watch. He has to punt on electricity in the short term so blackouts don’t kill his presidential aspirations, especially at the hands of pugnacious Florida Governor DeSantis, who doesn’t share California’s problem with his state’s five nuclear plants. Such a match-up could re-pave the road once travelled by the hapless Gray Davis, whose energy failure cleared the way for his Republican successor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

* * *

Alf, Arthur, Mae and Florence Lyons, 1910

* * *

LIFE IN THE ROSE CITY

Editor,

An RV with people living in it is parked next to my home. Residents in this neighborhood have to have a permit to park, but someone can live in their vehicle if they are, or claim to be, homeless.

I have owned my house in the Luther Burbank Gardens historic neighborhood for 30 years, in which time the neighborhood has gone downhill severely because of drugs and street people.

People all around Santa Rosa are suffering because Santa Rosa does not appear to prioritize residents who pay taxes and support the city. In the Luther Burbank Gardens area, crime is high, with any item left in a backyard at risk of being stolen. Syringes can be found lying around and human feces are everywhere.

Property values in Luther Burbank Gardens as well as in other parts of Santa Rosa will go down. Who wants to buy a house with homeless people parked next to it? It appears that the city believes homeless people have more rights than other residents. Residents no longer feel safe in their own homes.

Lisa Shiffrin

Santa Rosa

* * *

THE REAL HORROR, to me, lies in the fact that there is absolutely no vehicle in American journalism for the kind of “sensitive” and “intellectual” and essentially moral/merciless reporting that we all understand is necessary – not only for the survival of good journalism in this country, but for the dying idea that you can walk up to a newsstand and find something that will tell you what is really happening. 

— Hunter S. Thompson

* * *

* * *

SCIENTISTS ARE LISTENING TO BLUE WHALES OFF CALIFORNIA'S COAST. Here’s What Their Songs Reveal…

by Tara Duggan & Yoohyyn Jung

Blue whales are back hanging out off of California’s coast, gorging on krill as part of their annual journey north for summer and fall, and they’re telling each other about where the most bountiful food spots are and when to bounce again back south to Mexico and Central America, recent discoveries have shown.

How long the blue whales stick around may depend on how abundant the food is, as well as other ocean conditions, which suggests the endangered behemoths may be more complex, and more adaptable to the changing climate, than previously believed. Scientists are figuring these things out not just by seeing the whales actions, but also by listening to the many sounds of the ocean with sophisticated underwater microphones.

“We know that sound is vital to the lives and survival of these animals,” said Will Oestreich, a postdoctoral fellow at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Oestreich and his advisor, John Ryan, have been studying whales by using remote sound recording equipment in the Monterey Bay. Research shows that whales use sound for all essential life functions, including mating, migration, finding food and communication.

Studying the sounds of marine animals and their habitats, a field called acoustic ecology, is relatively new on the California coast, and it’s yielding exciting new insights. This growing discipline allows for more accurate detection of when animals are around and how they are communicating.

In recent years, the endangered blue whales’ presence in Monterey Bay has been detected by sound most robustly between August and December. This year, the Monterey Bay scientists have been picking up blue whale signals since July.

“These animals are super flexible (about) when they decide to migrate and feed,” Oestreich said. “They time that migration really in line with what’s happening with the seasonality of the ocean environment that controls the availability of the krill — food that they depend on.”

That flexibility is an example of how blue whales, like other migratory animals, are adapting to climate change, which impacts when and how much food is available, and in turn, can play a role in determining when they leave feeding grounds to reproduce, said Lindsey Peavey Reeves, a scientist with National Marine Sanctuary Foundation who collaborates with Ryan and Oestereich on whale research.

There are four listening sites in the Monterey Bay area — including one west of Moss Landing, another one closer to the shore near the Monterey Peninsula, and a third site is farthest out, at roughly 20 miles off the coast.

Since commercial whaling was banned in the 1980s, climate change has been one of the main threats to blue whales, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, in part because it can cause a decline in krill, their primary food source, as warmer temperatures and ocean acidification can affect its availability. An estimated 2,000 blue whales summer off the California coast out of about 15,000 worldwide. While still endangered, California’s blue whale population has been recovering in the last decade.

Blue whales spend most of their time below the ocean’s surface and farther offshore than other species, making it harder for researchers to study them by sight — despite the fact that they grow up to 90 feet long and can weigh over 100,000 pounds. But the whales emit low-frequency sounds that can be tracked from hundreds of miles away, which is why scientists say these underwater microphones, called hydrophones, are a groundbreaking way to study them.

“A lot of species are a lot easier to hear or detect acoustically than they are to see,” said Anne Simonis, an acoustic ecologist and affiliate with National Marine Fisheries Service who studies marine mammals on the West Coast, including in the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary near the Bay Area.

Studying when blue whales leave foraging grounds and when they stay provides insight into how the ocean is doing, which is especially important with climate change.

“They’re really an ecosystem indicator in a lot of ways,” said Peavey Reeves. “When we hear blue whales and we can categorize their different vocalizations into links to their behavior, we can glean understanding of the health of the ecosystem or what’s happening in the habitats that they’re in.”

The sound data on blue whales in Monterey Bay was collected from a hydrophone on the sea floor connected by a 32-mile cable — one that anyone can tune into live from what the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute calls a Soundcape Listening Room. There aren’t many such fixed devices on the West Coast, and none of those provide live sound, so Simonis, Peavey Reeves and their colleagues use different tactics to collect data elsewhere in California.

In some cases, they drop a hydrophone to the sea floor, attached to weight and a buoy, and leave it for several months to record sounds in a specific area. When they are ready to retrieve it, they use an acoustic signal that will release the anchor so the instrument bobs to the surface.

Other times, they deploy hydrophones attached to floating buoys for several days to get snapshots of sounds in a larger area.

“We want to learn more about blue whales in particular, because we have stretches of the coastline, such as Greater Farallones, where we don’t have much information at all about these amazing creatures, and they’re in places where we really do need to increase their protection,” said Peavey Reeves.

Deciphering blue whales’ songs and what they’re talking about involves tons of data collection and looking for patterns, the Monterey Bay scientists say.

As scientists listened to a congregation of about 40 whales feeding on a massive concentration of krill in the Monterey Bay in 2017, they noticed something unusual. Rather than just keeping the good eats to themselves, the whales, which are known to be solitary, were bellowing to others, letting them know where the abundant feed was located.

Scientists call these bellows “D” type calls, which, when sped up for human ears. sound like low, repetitive hums or moans. “If we see them making a certain sound in association with a certain behavior, we interpret that it serves a function in that behavior,” Ryan, the Monterey Bay oceanographer, explained.

They, along with other researchers studying these sounds, have connected these loud bellows with foraging behavior. They’re also able to identify the different blue whale songs by examining the sound signals and their patterns.

Listening to the songs of just one blue whale is a powerful experience, but listening to a whole group of dozens of blue whales, who are most often found swimming alone or in pairs, is even more striking, Oestreich and Ryan said.

“That’s a pretty visceral physiological experience to feel and hear such a dense aggregation of calls,” Oestreich said.

But blue whale sounds, at their normal speed, can’t really be heard using average computer speakers unless they’re enhanced, Ryan explained. Labs like the Monterey Bay research institute use subwoofers to listen, and when the blue whales sing, their low frequency rumble shakes the room.

“These are huge aggregations of whales, all feeding on the same swarm of krill in the same location and up to 40 blue whales in a very small area, if you can picture that many large animals all feeding together,” Oestreich said. “It’s kind of mind-boggling that there could be that much food available for that many of the largest animal ever to live,” he added.

There are other animal species that forage together in areas with abundant food, but what’s remarkable about blue whales is that they are calling to their friends tens of miles away to alert them about these bountiful spots, especially as climate change threatens the availability of krill.

Perhaps blue whales aren’t such solitary creatures after all. Because hydrophones have not been widely used by researchers until recently, records don’t go far back enough for scientists to compare how these deep-sea mammals socialized and shared information in a distant past. “We’re increasingly building longer-term records, though,” Oestreich added.

“The jury is still out on how flexible they can be if we continue to see climate-driven changes to ecosystems,” he said. “But it does appear that they’re more flexible than we once believed to be for quite a while.”

* * *

* * *

ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY

Walking the walk.

I…know this guy who just plunked down several thousand dollars for a thermal scope…for birdwatching…at night.

The Federal Government will allow you to own machine guns, tanks, even artillery, with the right permits and buttloads of cash. Been there, done that, and understand the priviledge.

I am amazed, however, that the government allows private ownership of thermal scopes. 

“You don’t need a thermal scope to shoot Bambi at 200 yards at night”..

…Yes, you do.

* * *

BARBARA EHRENREICH, AUTHOR WHO RESISTED INJUSTICE, DIES AGED 81

Writer of the 2001 bestseller Nickel and Dimed died on 1 September, her son announced

by Ed Pilkington

Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of more than 20 books on social justice themes ranging from women’s rights to inequality and the inequities of the American healthcare system, has died at the age of 81.

The news that Ehrenreich had died on 1 September was released by her son, Ben Ehrenreich, on Friday. He accompanied the announcement with a comment redolent of his mother’s spirit: “She was never much for thoughts and prayers, but you can honor her memory by loving one another, and by fighting like hell.”

Ehrenreich battled over a half a century as a writer committed to resisting injustice and giving a voice to those who were typically unheard.

Her first book, published in 1969, Long March, Short Song, was an account of the student uprising against the Vietnam war.

In Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, her 2001 bestseller, she wrote an immersive experience of living as a low-waged worker in Key West, Florida.

The book helped spread awareness of an economy in which it was necessary to work two or three jobs to survive, and acted as a catalyst of the minimum wage movement.

Later, she used her name and energy to try to give low-income and other disadvantaged groups a direct voice to tell their own stories.

She founded the Economic Hardship Reporting Project which supports independent journalists to write about their lives including in poor rural areas of the US.

Ehrenreich, who acquired a doctorate in cell biology before she turned to social activism and writing, was diagnosed in 2000 with breast cancer. She wrote an award-winning essay Welcome to Cancerland about the experience.

She brought her trademark clear-eyed reporting to the subject of her own mortality. In 2018 she published Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer, in which she described coming to the realization that she had lived long enough to die.

“That thought had been forming in my mind for some time,” she told the Guardian at the time. “I really have no hard evidence about when exactly one gets old enough to die, but I notice in obituaries if the person is over 70 there’s not a big mystery, there’s no investigation called for. It’s usually not called tragic because we do die at some age. I found that rather refreshing.”

Announcing his mother’s death on Twitter, Ben Ehrenreich echoed that point. “She was, she made clear, ready to go,” he said.

* * *

DAVID TALBOT: 

Barbara Ehrenreich, who has died, was a fixture in my family's life. A champion of the oppressed who used her pen and her voice for the cause of righteous justice. And a warm and witty person. Here is my friend Deirdre English, who worked closely with Barbara over the years, on the woman who inspired so many of us:

Barbara died — of natural causes — in hospice care yesterday morning — a few weeks sooner than expected. A fighter by nature and with regard to her health setbacks over the past two years, by the end she had resolved to die. As she told me some months ago, it was a matter to which she had given much thought. We all die. Barbara was the ultimate realist. 

As befits that acceptance, she had given her all while she was alive. 

Her inimitable spirit will be greatly missed — what contributions she made to the labor movement, the progressive movement, the women’s movement, and as a model of literary journalism and wicked wit, always aimed at posturing elitists of every sort. 

Barbara’s perspective was multifaceted from the beginning. She always led the women’s movement to see through the lens of inequality and with a fervent sense of the movement’s obligation to work on behalf of the least privileged. 

She never fell in with guilt-ridden left extremism, or the obfuscations of arcane “theory.” She was ever practical and solid. 

Her brilliance was unmatched, her reach was wide, and her mark will be indelible.

* * *

THE SUPPRESSION OF COLLECTIVE JOY

by Fred Gardner

Barbara Ehrenreich made a quick visit to San Francisco last week to promote her new book, “Dancing in the Streets.” Her noontime talk at the Commonwealth Club Jan. 18, excerpted below, was attended by about 100 people, mostly women. The subject was the suppression of collective joy, a historical trend that might seem abstruse -who but an insightful sociologist would try to name and explain it?- but which has affected every one of us directly. “‘Collective joy’ is a clunky term,” Ehrenreich acknowledged, “but it’s the best I could come up with.”

Almost a decade ago, before Ehrenreich’s forays into the labor force recounted in “Nickel and Dimed” and “Bait and Switch,” she got interested in human bonding. Not sexual bonding, she explained, and not just the kind that holds families together, but:

“the kinds of bonds that hold communities together and can even bring strangers together… Ritual, organized ways that people can make each other not only happy but joyful, delirious even ecstatic… Dancing, music, singing, feasting -which includes drinking- costuming, masking, face paint, body paint, processions, dramas, sporting competitions, comedies…

“These activities are almost universal. When Europeans fanned out across the globe from the 15th to 19th centuries conquering people, they found rituals and festivities going on everywhere from Polynesia to Alaska to Sub-Saharan Africa to india. Everywhere there were occasions for dressing up -often in a religious context but not always. The Europeans were horrified by what they saw and described it as ‘savagery’ and ‘devil worship.’ They thought it showed the inherent inferiority of indigenous people that they could let go in this way. The truth is, these traditions were European, too, but forgotten. The ancient Greeks had a god for ecstasy, Dionysus. Women especially worshipped Dionysus…

“There is evidence that Christianity until the 13th century was very much a danced religion. The archbishops were always complaining about it. When dancing was eventually banned in the churches it went outside in the form of carnival and other festivities that filled the church calendar. In 15th century France, one out of four days of the year was given over to festivities of some sort. People didn’t live to work, they lived to party…

“Going back 10,000 years we find rock art depicting lines and circles of dancing people. There is evidence that this capacity for collective joy, especially through synchronized, rhythmic activity such as dance, is hardwired into humans. It’s part of our unique evolutionary heritage. Chimpanzees can get excited and jump up and down and wave their arms, but they’ve got no rhythm. They can’t dance. They can’t coordinate their emotions…

“The evolutionary scientists say it was probably this capacity that allowed humans to form groups larger than kinship groups -large groups that were essential for defense against predatory animals and eventually against bands of other humans. The techniques -the dance steps, the musical instruments, the costumes- are cultural, but the capacity for collective joy is innate. We are hardwired to be party animals…

“Why is there so little collective joy today? Why is our culture bereft of opportunity for this kind of thing? Mostly, we sit in cubicles at work and we sit in our cars. If you mention ‘ecstasy’ people think you’re talking about a drug. The cure for loneliness and isolation and despair is Prozac… The simple answer is: the ancient tradition of festivities and ecstatic rituals was deliberately suppressed by elites -people in power who associated this kind of frolicking with the lower classes and especially with women…

“The Romans had their own Dionysus worshippers in Italy and they slaughtered them in 60 BC with the kind of ferocity they later directed at Christians… The Protestants were the real killjoys. They just wiped out that entire calendar of festivities from the Catholic church and outlawed dancing and masking. Around the world it was mainly missionaries who crushed the ecstatic rituals of indigenous people. In this country, slave owners banned not only reading and books, they banned the drum. They understood that in these kinds of rituals people found collective strength. A similar thing happened in 18th century Arabia with the rise of Wahabist Islam, the antecedent of Al Qaeda and Saudi Islam. Their main enemy was not Christians or Jews so much as it was the Sufi tradition within Islam which is ecstatic and involves music and dance.

“Elites fear that disorderly kinds of events could turn into uprisings. And this fear is justified. Whether you’re looking at European peasants in the late middle ages or Caribbean slaves in the 19th century, they were using festivity and carnival as the occasion for revolts.

“A second reason that comes with the industrial revolution is, of course, the need to impose social discipline. It’s hard to take agricultural people or herding people and convince them that they should get up and work six days a week, 12 hours a day, and then spend the seventh day listening to boring sermons in a church. To discipline the working class and slaves was a huge enterprise.”

Festivity has been replaced over the centuries by spectacle —“something you watch or listen to but you do not participate in directly.” As examples Ehrenreich cited the transition “from danced Christian worship to the masque, a drama going on on stage,” and football, which originally “was played by hundreds of people on a side. It was a mass sport in which whole villages took on other villages, men women and children. It was a melee that got tamed into football where a few participate and most watch. Spectacles involve your eyes and ears, not the muscles of your body, and they require no creativity on the part of the spectator. The creativity has been centralized.”

People keep trying to reinstitute festivity because, Ehrenreich emphasized, “we were meant to get up and move.” She recalled “the rock rebellion of the 1950s and ’60s -the kids in the audience refused to sit still. They kept lifting up out of their seats. Police would be called. But the kids would get up and dance as soon as the police turned their backs.” Other examples include “costuming, even if it’s only wearing the team colors or a cheesehead. Face paint -what could be more ancient. The wave… In Latin America you get people bringing their drums to the stadium and dancing in the bleachers…

Ehrenreich remarked the emergence of entirely new festivities such as Burning Man, the Love Parade in Berlin (at which a million people have danced in the streets), and the transformation of Halloween into a grown-up celebration. In response to a question about San Francisco’s efforts to contain the partying on Halloween, Ehrenreich said that repression has often been rationalized in terms of maintaining public safety and order -“too much noise, that kind of thing.” Almost as an afterthought she added, “a lot of the repression of what goes on in clubs is carried out in the name of the war on drugs.” (Ehrenreich is a former board member of NORML.)

Ehrenreich’s scholarship (even her throwaway lines contain the seeds of PhD theses) doesn’t keep her from waxing lyrical. She concluded by reading a passage from “Dancing in the Streets:” “Walking along the beach in Rio we came upon members of a Samba school rehearsing for Carnivale -four-year-olds to octogenarians, men and women, some gorgeously costumed and some in tank tops and shorts -Rio street clothes. To a 19th century missionary or a 21st century religious puritan their movements might have seemed lewd or at least suggestive. (Missionaries always called indigenous people lewd.) Certainly the conquest of the streets by a crowd of brown-skinned people would have been distressing in itself. But the samba school danced down right to the sand in perfect dignity, rapt in their own rhythm, their faces both exalted and shining with an almost religious kind of exaltation. One thin, latte-colored young man dancing just behind the musicians set the pace. What was he in real life? A bank clerk? A busboy? Here, in his brilliant feathered costume, he was a prince, a mythological figure, maybe even a god. Here, for a moment there were no divisions among people except for the political ones created by Carnivale itself. After they reached the boardwalk, bystanders started following in without any indication or announcements, without embarrassment or even alcohol to dissolve the normal constraints of urban life, the samba school turned into a huge crowd and the crowd turned into a momentary festival. There was no quote point to it, no religious overtones, no ideological message, no money to be made. Just the chance -which we need much more of on this crowded planet- to acknowledge the miracle of our simultaneous existence with some sort of celebration.”

* * *

Extra Points

Ehrenreich’s comments in response to questions included the following:

Most of the megachurches that BE has looked into (for another project) are “quite staid in their form of worship… The ecstatic Pentacostal forms of worship are to be found in tent revivals and storefront churches of the poor. The pentacostal movement was founded in the early 20th century by a black man. It became an interracial denomination and brought in the forms of music that were not ordinarily associated with worship. Hot forms of music. Lively forms of music that encouraged movement…

“Christmas was once so wild that it was banned in certain states. People would costume themselves and go door-to-door, demand drinks from every house they went to, pour out into the streets, and dance. Typical festival behavior. The transition was made in the late 19th and early 20th century to an indoor holiday. (As if instructing a child) ‘This is something you celebrate with your family…’ Caroling from house-to-house is a dim reminder of Christmas’s sordid background.

“It’s been said by many sociologists that Americans are remarkably tied into our nuclear families at the expense of community bonds. Many things have been blamed on this hallmark of American society, including the high divorce rate. We’re expecting so much from this tiny group of people, our family.”

Anthropologists see rituals in retrospect as a way of building community but the participants saw them as a way of bonding with deities.

“In the game ‘Second Life’ people go off and have a second life as boring as their first ones. There’s no muscular involvement. And that is important… Mirror neurons have been getting a lot of attention recently. There are parts of our brain that respond to seeing another person’s motion by preparing to execute the same motion. We are connected very deeply on the muscular level, which is missing on MySpace.

“In the 18th century in all parts of Europe there was an epidemic of what physicians called melancholia. This is the period when traditional festivities were disappearing. There was a rise in suicides and what we would today recognize as “depression.” I would argue that festivities and ecstatic rituals are traditional cures for what looks to us like depression. One example is the Czar ritual in Northern Africa. A woman becomes so depressed that she takes to her bed and won’t get up, won’t do anything anymore. Maybe her husband has announced that he’s taking a second wife… Classic, severe depression. The cure? They bring in the Czar healer, who comes with a bunch of musicians. And you bring all the women in town for days and nights of ecstatic dancing. Pretty soon, the depressed woman gets up and is all better… There are many examples of these sorts of things being used curatively for what we would call depression…

“There are always class tensions about festivities. In the 1970s the elite of Rio di Janero decided they wanted to have nothing to do with Carnivale. So that was the week you went off to your country home if you could afford to. Now the elite is trying to retake Carnivale and turn it into more of a spectacle.

“There are tensions around sporting events. The ticket prices have gotten too high for the working class. Most average fans -the fans who had been bringing carnival aspects to sporting events- can’t even go anymore. The rich are up there in their skyboxes. The last thing they want to run into is some face-painted maniac.

There has been an “Increasing carnivalization of protest. People bring drums. The press mocks them for having a good time, as if it means they’re not serious. And yet that is the ancient form of protest.

“The ancient Hebrews were not in favor of ecstatic rituals, which they associated with the Canaanites, the indigenous people of Palestine, who were not monotheistic, who worshipped a goddess as well as a god, and who had pretty wild forms of worship. So throughout the old testament prophets are saying ‘Don’t backslide! Stay away from those golden calves.”

Ehrenreich has an essay in the current Harpers attacking “the cult of cheerfulness -by which I don’t mean joy but the almost ubiquitous injunctions in our culture to be perky, upbeat, smiling, and positive-thinking at all times.”

Some in the affluent crowd seemed to think they could find private solutions to the suppression of collective joy. There were questions such as “Would you say that a marathon fuses elements of individualism with collective joy?” To which BE replied,

“I’ve never run one. I’d have to defer to marathon runners on that. What it does not involve is that synchronized, rhythmic activity.”

She seemed momentarily puzzled by the question, “What kind of new things do you see bringing out collective joy in the future?” “New things?… To me it’s more about the recovery of a lost tradition. Those ancient technologies -dance, costuming, feasting, food sharing- can we recover that?…

“There’s no question that we’re hardwired to be social animals. We are intensely sociable, more so than any other primate. And sometimes in not good ways. There are other manifestations of collective excitement, say that of a lynch mob. Another not good way in which we’re overly sociable is that we will revise our own perception of the world sometimes to fit with what we’re being told. We want to conform, very strongly. And we have to push back and think for ourselves…

“It’s a back-and-forth dialectic. In Key West there’s an annual thing called the Fantasy Fest. It was very mardi-gras like -costuming, people used to prepare their dance sketches for months before. You’d get a troupe of people and dance down the street. It got so successful that in recent years Bud Lite has sponsored it. And what it has lost is that creativity. Now you have 3,000 people come into this small island to get as drunk as they possibly can and take off their clothes…

“Most of us don’t have much time in our lives because of this ridiculous cultural expectation that you should get up every morning and work. And work defines you, it’s the measure of your worth as a human being…

“A great deal of individual artistry is involved in traditional festivity. I’m thinking of small-scale societies before they were all wrecked by imperialism and global capitalism. Individuals who craft musical instruments, individuals who are very good at costume making, who come up with new dance steps, new rhythms. This is not just about merging with the group. The festivity ideally brings out the creativity of individuals.”

* * *

I knew the speaker when she used to rock ‘n roll, when her name was Barbara Alexander and she was going out with John Ehrenreich, a cherubic brainiac from Philadelphia who went through Harvard in three years. They moved to Manhattan and started working towards PhDs in cell biology from the Rockefeller Institute while I was employed nearby at Scientific American. The U.S. role in Vietnam was escalating and the drug companies and equipment manufacturers were tightening control over the for-profit “healthcare system,” which the Ehrenreichs studied, tried to reform, and wrote about. They had a railroad flat up five flights of stairs and a baby named Rosa.

Barbara’s father was a metallurgist and former copper miner who had risen high in the Gillette Razor Company by virtue of his expertise. Once, when Mr. Alexander heard that friends of his daughter’s wished they could afford a house in Montauk, he offered to give them–not sell them–a small parcel of land he’d acquired there after World War Two and did not intend to use. I was young when this offer was made, people in my family are very generous, too, and it wasn’t until I’d seen more of the world that I realized how unusual such generosity is. It must have been a factor in how his daughter developed her egalitarian instincts and such a sane perspective on consumption.

As a schoolgirl Barbara couldn’t master the ballroom dancing steps, she says. But as a young woman she could dance into the early morning at the Fillmore East “to the point of self-forgetfulness.” Her new book is dedicated to Rosa’s daughters, now 5 and 2. To a question about raising children, Grandma B. advised, “Encourage their creativity… Don’t make them self-conscious… Keep them out of school as much as possible. What is school but training in how to sit still?”

* * *

Firemen turn fire hoses on civil rights demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963. (photo by Charles Moore)

* * *

BIDEN BRINGS THE WAR ON TERROR HOME

President Biden in his primetime speech Thursday sure sounded like a man preparing to criminalize Trumpism. Is the White House expanding the great policy error of our time?

by Matt Taibbi

He looked shaky as he hobbled onstage Thursday night, but at the podium the drugs kicked in and Joe Biden delivered a commanding speech, by his standards. He handled an early bout of hoarseness like a pro, matched affect to content most of the way, and fumbled few words and none seriously.

But something was off from the start. Biden’s handlers had the otherwise inspiring setting of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall bathed in so much blood-red light, he looked like an opening act for Queensrÿche or Rammstein. Trying to create a setting for judgment and warning, they overshot the staging and made the white-haired ex-Senator look like a vampire sat up from a crypt.

The content matched the ominous staging. Biden delivered a remarkably menacing manifesto.

The only political speech I can remember that rivaled Biden’s address for darkness is Donald Trump’s own much-pilloried tirade against “lawlessness” at the 2016 Republican convention (I was there and called it “relentlessly negative… pure horror movie… with constant references to murder and destruction”). In fact, replace “illegal immigrants… roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens” with “MAGA Republicans… [threatening] the very foundations of our Republic,” and that speech of Trump’s reads eerily like the one Biden just gave, which Fox host Bret Baier agreed was “essentially a convention speech.” Both described a lost paradise that may be regained, if only we rid ourselves of a verminous infestation of lawbreakers.

On one level, it was standard ring-around-the-collar tactics. From Barry Goldwater in 1964 exhorting supporters against “marauders,” to Nixon four years later rallying “forgotten Americans” against the “merchants of crime and corruption,” to retired Barack Obama in 2020 warning of a nameless “them” who would “take away your power” and “your democracy,” this type of scare speech is a familiar political trope.

But Biden was going for something bigger, and the speech his primetime gambit most resembled was the great demented clarion call of our age, George W. Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address. That landmark effort, written by current Democratic Party consigliere and furious Twitter dimwit David Frum, outlined with literary élan the Bush administration’s grand plan for fucking up the response to 9/11. It would be the Sorcerer’s Apprentice approach to terror prevention: in every place we found a terrorist, we created two more, and still more to chase each of those, and so on, until the Middle East filled up with our soldiers, frantically bailing a flood of our own creation.

This happened because instead of focusing on al-Qaeda as a small, isolated cult best dealt with as an international policing problem, Bush announced an existential fight against all evil everywhere, in a snap boosting the enemy’s numbers from hundreds to millions. We weren’t just fighting bin Laden’s cave force, but the “thousands of dangerous killers” he said were “spread throughout the world like ticking time bombs,” members not just of al-Qaeda but “Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Jaish-i-Mohammed.” To pursue them “wherever they are,” we’d also fight “nations” who “harbor terrorists,” as well as those who might harbor terrorists; Bush sought to eliminate the very concept of threat. He’d prevent “regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America,” beginning with Iran, North Korea, and Iraq, the “axis of evil.”

A key theme was preventive action. Bush wouldn’t wait for disaster, but would step in, Minority Report-style, to stop it before it began. He read off this pledge like a religious incantation, using a Dr. Seuss-like rhythm: “I will not wait on events while dangers gather. I will not stand by as peril draws closer.” (He did not like Green Eggs and Ham. He did not like them, Sam I Am!). He repeated over and over that Our Enemies were steeped in evil, people who “embrace tyranny and death as a cause and a creed,” while we stand for “freedom and the dignity of every life.” He demanded unity, noting that in this binary world, none may be neutral:

No nation owns these aspirations, and no nation is exempt from them. We have no intention of imposing our culture, but America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity…

Biden’s speech was an exact domestic analog. Like Bush’s sweeping description of enemies wedded Satanically to tyranny and death, Biden’s MAGA Republicans “embrace anger,” “thrive on chaos,” and live “not in the light of truth but in the shadow of lies.” He repeated almost verbatim Bush’s theory of preventive action, saying it is too dangerous to allow “MAGA Republicans” to run for office. He said “they” are working “as I speak” in “state after state” to pack vote-counting bureaucracies with “partisans and cronies,” with the express purpose of “thwarting the will of the people.” He will not watch MAGAs win a house, he will not watch them with a mouse:

I will not stand by and watch — I will not — the will of the American people be overturned by wild conspiracy theories and baseless evidence-free claims of fraud. I will not stand by and watch elections in this country stolen by people who simply refuse to accept that they lost. I will not stand by and watch the most fundamental freedom in this country, the freedom to vote… be taken from you.

This is a word-for-word lift from Bush, who said “I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer,” and backed up his talk with pre-emptive military action. Will Biden also act? Assume for argument that he’s right, that Trump allies are running for office with the purpose of stealing elections. Still, what does “I will not stand by and watch it” mean? Biden hinted that courses of action are available, but was unnervingly vague about what those are. “We are not powerless in the face of these threats,” he said. “We are not bystanders… it’s within our power… to stop the assault on… democracy.”

If he’s talking about voting, that’s one thing, but Biden’s extravagant use of the language of threat — he invoked the word nine times, besting even the seven mentions in the Bush/Frum speech — suggested other possibilities.

Modern Republicans bear a lot of responsibility for the fact, and I’d hope at least a few of the party’s officials are smarting from the irony now, but in the War on Terror age, the words presidents choose to describe antagonists unfortunately mean a lot. 21st century presidents can spy, kill, and imprison just by invoking that magic word, “threat,” and this is obvious and important subtext to Biden’s remarks.

Just over 20 years ago, when George W. Bush re-christened American citizen Jose Padilla an “enemy combatant” who posed a “serious and continuing threat” to America, the semantic change gave him power to detain the man three years without charge. Bush lawyers later claimed authority to use “enhanced interrogation” on “members of the enemy.” One could be put on a Watch List, with consequences ranging from restricted travel to cessation of government benefits to being denied a bank account, if judged to have “known or potential links to terrorism.” The Obama administration followed by sanctifying “targeted killing” even for an American deemed a “continued and imminent threat to U.S. persons or interests.”

This is why it matters when Biden describes “MAGA Republicans” as a “threat… to the very soul of this country,” or as “extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic,” representing “dangers around us we cannot allow to prevail.” It’s hard to see how these terms are substantively different from War on Terror constructions like the “continued and imminent threat to U.S. interests” or a “serious and continuing threat to the American people.” Biden sounded like a man preparing followers for an enforcement response to Trumpism itself, and even if that wasn’t what he was doing, it’s clear many Trump supporters heard things that way.

Biden went out of his way to quote federal judge Michael Luttig in calling the MAGA enemy a “clear and present danger.” The loaded term traces to a 1919 Supreme Court case in which Oliver Wendell Holmes created a test for judging if speech and/or other political activities may be suppressed. “The question,” Holmes wrote, “is whether the words… create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.” This “balancing test” was invoked to justify restrictions ranging from a ban on passing out antiwar leaflets to bars of membership in communist organizations. The “substantive evil” in such cases often involved a judgment that groups or individuals posed an active threat to overthrow the state — not so different from arguing that a political movement threatens “democracy itself.”

In the context of what increasingly feels like a fifties-style PR campaign to describe “MAGA Republicans” as dangerous subversives, “clear and present danger” sounded particularly ominous.

Biden made headlines last week when he denounced “extreme MAGA philosophy” as “like semi-fascism.” Later, DNC adviser Kurt Bardella went on MSNBC and said, “The MAGA Republicans are a domestic terrorist cell operating in America.” Bardella retweeted his comments in case anyone missed his point:

Kurt Bardella: “Where's the lie? "The MAGA Republicans are a domestic terrorist cell operating in America. This is a group of people who have decided that it is acceptable to use violence & threats of violence to try to achieve their political means...that is terrorism."

Atlantic contributor Peter Wehner went on Morning Joe and previewed a line that would appear in Biden’s speech, saying Republicans are a “dagger pointed at the throat of American democracy,” while New York Times writer Charles Blow said “the Republican Party itself is now a threat to our democracy.” The concept of MAGA Republicans as not merely disreputable, deplorable racists but an imminent terror threat is suddenly mainstream:

The Post Millennial: “Karine Jean-Pierre says Biden has been "really clear" that the ‘extreme MAGA-agenda" is "a threat to the rule of law’.” 

Hillary Clinton” “The speech @POTUS gave last night is one of the most important I've seen a president give. We must name the threat our democracy faces–including a MAGA faction that incites violent insurrections and rejects the rule of law—in order to overcome it together.” 

Greg Sargent (WashPo): “Rather than humor GOP outrage, a better media response is to hold Rs to account for all the ways they've proven Biden right. Because his core claim -- that Trump and Rs in thrall to MAGA pose a foundational threat to our system -- is undeniably correct. Opinion: MAGA Republicans are seething with rage because Biden hit his target. Biden’s core claim about the foundational threat posed by Trump and MAGA is undeniably correct.”

Dean Obeidallah: “It's long past time that MAGA be designated a domestic terrorist group. Period.”

* * *

Seventy-four million people voted for Trump in 2020. It’s beyond delusional to think they are all violent extremists. A smart politician would recognize the overwhelming majority are just people who pay taxes, work crap jobs, raise kids, obey the law, and give at most a tiny share of attention to politics. The University of Virginia did a study arguing that as many as 8 million previously voted for Obama, so there’s that. I’d bet more than half would pick a screening of Thor: Love and Thunder over a Trump speech. The only sure way to radicalize the lot is to call them one big terror cell, or have the president go on TV to describe them as an existential threat to national security.

Having done that, Biden now has a bigger problem than ever. What a mess, but how perfectly in character for our leaders! Metaphorically we’re always blowing up villages and pyramids to chase a terror suspect into the desert. Now we’re factory-producing enemies at home, too, and it doesn’t look like anyone up there knows how to stop.

* * *

FUNNY, YOU DON'T LOOK ARMENIAN

A moving story with NPR's Scott Simon about a man saved by puppies…

SCOTT SIMON, HOST: Burnout is affecting faith leaders, many of whom are choosing to leave their ministries. NPR's Scott Simon talks with former pastor Eric Atcheson about the reasons he quit a job he once loved.

Eric Atcheson

Millions of Americans turn to faith leaders - ministers, priests, imams, rabbis and other clergy - for messages of hope in trying times. But after two years of pandemic stress and deep divisions in society, many clergy are simply burned out. A survey this year from Barna, a Christian research organization, asked pastors if they'd given serious consideration to quitting, and 42% said yes. Eric Atcheson is an ordained pastor who resigned from his ministry at the Valley Christian Church in Birmingham, Ala., this spring. 

He's tweeted about the stress that many clergy are under and joins us now. Pastor, thanks so much for being with us.

ERIC ATCHESON: Thank you for inviting me.

SIMON: I have read you were standing in line for breakfast biscuits when something just crystallized in your mind and heart.

ATCHESON: Crystallization is a very elegant term for it. The probably more medically accurate term was I had a panic attack. This was my body telling my soul, you need to be released from this call. You need to find some other way of being in the world.

SIMON: Help us understand what built up in you and got that powerful.

ATCHESON: So even before the pandemic, attrition burnout has been a major hot-button issue in the church. Trying to prevent it was something that was beaten into my head when I was in God School. It was taught sort of as something that we as clergy need to prevent and are responsible for preventing. But that self-work - they call it self-care - can only get you so far in environments that are dysfunctional. And when that dysfunctionality turns into toxicity, it can be just too much to ask.

SIMON: Well, what were the forces and the stresses?

ATCHESON: Yeah, it's extremely tough, even under normal circumstances, to be a new pastor in a congregation, especially if you are following a very beloved predecessor who had been there for quite some time. And it often takes two years or more to stop being perceived as a newcomer and to start being perceived as an insider. And one aspect of difficulty, sort of on top of the layer of COVID, is clergy trying to lead churches through the reckonings around institutional racism in the United States and institutional homophobia, transphobia, queerphobia. In a couple of instances, there was backlash towards me for my ethnicity as an Armenian American, which, A, I could not change even if I wanted to. But, B, my ethnicity is so interwoven into my faith as an Armenian and a descendant of genocide survivors that I can't separate the two. So for me, having that not fit in, in ways that I had hoped would be accepted, was another one of those turning points.

SIMON: Somebody or more than just one person would defame you for being an Armenian American?

ATCHESON: That's correct.

SIMON: Oh, my word.

ATCHESON: And I want to be clear that this isn't just inside a congregation. It's how I would be perceived just by random passersby. And not just for being Armenian, but simply for not being white enough or being brown enough to appear as though I don't belong. Like, if - even as a pastor who has dedicated my life to serving the church, if I am seen as having less of a claim of belonging in that church, something is still deeply wrong in sort of how we perceive who owns the church. What I kept coming up against was what I had believed was a sense of belonging that had been cultivated in me since I was a kid and was why - a big reason why I went into ministry in the first place - that had been taken away from me or damaged to a very significant degree.

SIMON: I mean, I'm sure this has flashed through your mind, but I wonder, when you were confronted by anti-Armenian bigotry, did it occur to you the role I have now in their life, whether they like it or not, is to show them a better way?

ATCHESON: I see my role when something like that happens in showing a different way insofar as I am a mirror to hold up to them and help them understand their own autonomy and choices, to embrace prejudice because I don't always get to choose if I am white. You get to choose that based on how you perceive me. And I don't always choose to be seen as brown or Middle Eastern or Islamic. Someone else chooses that for me. And I can say that I have colleagues who have similar stories to tell of sort of having that sense of belonging taken from them, whether on the basis of their ethnic identity or their gender identity or their sexual orientation. As clergy get more diverse, just as younger generations reflect diversity in a number of ways, I think you're going to see more of those stories and more clergy feeling burned out because, again, it isn't a result of overwork but a result of the failure of relationship.

SIMON: I'm obviously not a member of the clergy, but isn't a clergy - member of the clergy permitted to sometimes tell their parishioners, I'm sorry, you're wrong, God loves everyone?

ATCHESON: One has to be very judicious in how one goes about it. It's one thing to say on a general sense, oh, well, we're all sinners, and we all need to do better. And that's sort of where you get that patronizing, hate the sin, love the sinner mentality that has done a lot of harm. It's one thing to sort of say that. It's another to say the specific sin of, like, we have been homophobic or queerphobic or transphobic or we have been Islamophobic or antisemitic or we have been racist because - and I can say this for a fact in the historically white church, which has been the space in which I've primarily served - there is still a sentiment that it is worse to be told that you are prejudiced than to say something prejudiced or to do something that is prejudiced to someone else.

SIMON: Do you like your congregation, what used to be your congregation?

ATCHESON: Yes, very much. There are people there who I loved and who loved me back, and choosing to resign, to gather up that courage and then to sort of be truthful with them in love about why I needed to leave in a way that - you know, I didn't want to come across as trying to crush their spirit, but I believe that in those circumstances, being honest is a kindness, and to try to be honest that, like, I could not live up to expectations that I didn't know I was walking into.

SIMON: Do you still feel a call?

ATCHESON: To faith, absolutely. Before all of this, one of my least favorite Bible stories was the gospel teaching of Jesus, that one sometimes has to cut off your right hand in order to avoid the entire body falling into hell. I don't like to use the word hate in response to the Bible, so I will say that I mega-detested that teaching. It has gone from being one of my least favorite passages to one of my most favorite, because I understood that I had to sever my sense of ministerial call in order to preserve my faith in God as revealed through Jesus of Nazareth. And that remains very much intact.

SIMON: May I ask what you're doing to keep body and soul together and the family afloat now?

ATCHESON: I've done a lot of work for myself in therapy and spiritual direction. We have, you know, been really dedicated in trying to create new life and excitement within our family. We just fostered one dog and adopted another this year. And that's something that my wife Carrie has been so skilled at nudging me to do in the midst of my burnout, because I would just want to sit in that status and say, but just let nothing happen to me. I'm so exhausted from things happening to me. She would come along and say, well, what if the thing that happens to you is sunshine and a happy dog? OK.

SIMON: Do you allow yourself to contemplate the possibility of becoming a pastor again?

ATCHESON: I'll never say never. But if I do return to active ministry, I think it's going to be a significant amount of time in the future. And I'm having to come to terms with the possibility it might not ever. And so the short version is, I don't know.

SIMON: Eric Atcheson, thank you so much for being with us. Good luck to you.

ATCHESON: Thank you for having me.

* * *

* * *

BIDEN’S OUTRAGEOUS ATTACK ON PPP LOAN RECIPIENTS

The Covid-era program provided for forgiveness because it mostly aided the borrowers’ employees.

by Michael Faulkender

With a fresh round of economically disastrous policies, the Biden administration is out with its latest defenses. The White House accuses critics of its student-loan forgiveness of hypocrisy because some of them accepted Paycheck Protection Program loans, which were then forgiven.

The differences between the two programs are stark. PPP was created at the onset of government-ordered economic shutdowns during the pandemic to keep workers paid and relieve the burdens on state-based unemployment insurance systems. Without PPP, permanent small business-closings would have cascaded, throwing more than 10 million people out of jobs and onto the unemployment rolls and permanently severing relationships with employees, customers and suppliers, thus drastically slowing the postshutdown recovery.

PPP rolled out shortly after the enactment of the Cares Act, to relieve pressure on American workers. PPP loans were forgivable as long as most of the money went to payrolls. Under the original rules of the program, at least 75% of the forgiven amount had to be used on eligible payroll expenses. Within two weeks of the program opening, more than $343 billion was approved for small businesses to keep paychecks flowing.

The result was that the unemployment rate peaked in April 2020 at 14.7%, not the 20% many had forecast. Instead of losing up to eight million jobs in May 2020, the consensus estimate at the time, the U.S. regained 2.6 million jobs. Congress and the Trump administration saved the economy from what could have been a depression. Contrast that with student loans. A person voluntarily borrows money—not under pandemic duress and government mandated closings—to attend school in exchange for forgoing some future income to repay that loan. Historically, education has been a good investment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median weekly earnings in 2017 for those with a bachelor’s degree were 65% higher than for those with only a high school diploma and nearly 100% higher for those who went on to obtain a master’s degree. While PPP loans taken by business owners principally benefited employees, student loans principally benefit borrowers.

Student loans also weren’t originally designed to be forgiven, the way PPP loans were.

Borrowers chose to assume that obligation to improve their lives. Like other personal borrowing—whether for cars, homes, clothing or entertainment—student loans are used to relieve the amount of work the borrower must contemporaneously engage in to achieve the same spending.

The Biden student-loan forgiveness doesn’t reform higher education to reduce college costs. On the contrary, the plan creates incentives for colleges to raise prices, since students and schools will expect further bailouts. According to the Penn Wharton budget model, once one includes direct forgiveness and changes to income-driven repayment, this action could cost almost $1 trillion over the next 10 years. Of that money, 70% is forecast to go to the top three income quintiles.

At a cost of $800 billion, PPP loans supported the employment of more than 50 million Americans, facilitated compliance with public-health mandates, and enabled a swift economic recovery. The student-loan forgiveness will fuel inflation, do nothing to curb ballooning college costs, and primarily enrich those already most likely to succeed. PPP loans and student loans are worlds apart. While PPP was designed to prevent a second Great Depression and keep workers employed during a once-in-a-century pandemic, Mr. Biden’s student loan bailout seems designed to keep his party’s members of Congress employed after the fall elections.

(Mr. Faulkender served as assistant Treasury secretary for economic policy, 2019-21, and was responsible for implementing the Paycheck Protection Program. — Wall Street Journal)

* * *

* * *

PERCUSSIVE MAINTENANCE

Here's the recording of last night's (2022-09-02) Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show on 107.7fm KNYO-LP Fort Bragg (CA): https://tinyurl.com/KNYO-MOTA-0504

Thanks to Hank Sims for all kinds of tech help over the years, as well as for his fine news site: https://LostCoastOutpost.com

Thanks to the Anderson Valley Advertiser, which provided a significant portion of the above 8-hour show's most locally relevant material, as usual, without asking for anything in return. Just $25 a year for full access to all articles and features (TheAVA.com). And regard KNYO, whose donation heart is crying out for your loving touch. "Find me," it whimpers low, "Find me and touch me, tenderly and generously, the way you would love to be touched. Yes means yes." https://KNYO.org

I read this week's installment of Clifford Allen Sanders' book No More My Echoing Song at 1am; that's exactly four hours into the show, in case you want to skip straight to that. Maybe you'd like to contact Mr. Sanders and learn more about his life and work, or buy the book, even. Here: cliffordsanders@hotmail.com

I played the sound of Scott M. Peterson's latest quirky exposé Treasure Hunt at midnight. You can see what he's talking about and pointing at by journeying directly to the video. The exciting part that sounds like a violent exorcism is about ten or eleven minutes into that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9QktXp52Nc

Events in Kent Wallace's book have come to a muchness. This week's installment of that appears about 6 hours and 14 minutes into the show. Spoiler reveal: Ms. Hien and Mr. Quyen are, like Snidely Whiplash or Dishonest John, foiled, curses, to the cheers of the children whose theater show turns out to be a resounding success, and Seamus is off to his next adventure, which we'll hear more about next week.

And I almost forgot: there's a part in the show where it might sound like I'm complaining that there's popcorn left over in the popcorn thing from the First Friday book-signing. It's just, I coughed, and it reminded me of when people used to cook microwave popcorn back at KMFB and the synthetic butter crap would coat the entire radio station with its noxious effluvium. I wasn't complaining last night. I actually emptied the thing into a paper bag and had excellent non-polyester popcorn all the way home in the car. They can make popcorn any time they like. This kind is not a problem.

BESIDES ALL THAT…

at https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com you'll find a fresh batch of dozens of links to not necessarily radio-useful but nonetheless worthwhile items I set aside for you while gathering the show together. Such as:

Desert floods.

https://boingboing.net/2022/08/27/utah-flash-floods-create-waterfall-wonderland.html

“The two tiny fluffballs have no conception of the danger beneath the lilies.”

https://www.neatorama.com/2022/08/30/The-Big-Footed-Jacana/

This dancer makes me think of Ricci Dedola. The hand-flutters, maybe, the posture, the legs, the happy goofiness. She's like a Peter Max painting character.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrIchAz_bvE

And the Eye of Cthulhu.

https://gizmodo.com/webb-telescope-messier-74-hubble-spiral-galaxy-1849468680

Email me your work on any subject and I'll read it on the radio next Friday night.

—Marco McClean, memo@mcn.org, https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com

* * *

3 Comments

  1. Kirk Vodopals September 4, 2022

    Dear Mr Wodetzki:

    Yes, it is true that politicians regularly vote opposite the will of many of their constituents. Maybe that’s one of the many reasons why we despise them so much?
    And yes, it’s true, many polls are wrong, but your stated numbers sound right to me.
    But you can’t blame it all on those evil MAGAs. The wonderful left has done their fair share to contribute to endless wars, gross inequality, corporate tyranny and insane cultural perspectives.
    Of course “We The People” is the foundation of our freedoms and democracy, but I cringe when the surface gets scratched on peoples beliefs and how it effects their voting. Elvis lives, nobody died at Sandy Hook, that swimmer is a woman, Trump won, we just need more good guys with guns, Russia sank Hillary, the vaccines are going to kill everyone…. Ugh

    • George Hollister September 4, 2022

      For every citizen the only good tax is a tax someone else pays, the only good government program is one we benefit from, and the only good government regulation is one placed on others. For every citizen there are no unintended consequences from having others pay tases, for getting from government as many handouts as possible, and for failing to take responsibility. Needless to say, we are all very sanctimonious about all of it.

  2. Chuck Dunbar September 4, 2022

    Barbara Ehrenreich owns this Labor Day. She earned it well. Thanks for the tributes to her, AVA.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

-