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WHILE COASTAL AREAS will remain fairly cool, unseasonably hot afternoon temperatures and warm nights will continue inland through Friday. A significant cooling trend will occur Saturday through Monday. (NWS)
YESTERDAY'S HIGHS: Ukiah 108°, Yorkville 107°, Covelo 107°, Boonville 105°, Fort Bragg 72°
YESTERDAY'S LOW in Death Valley was 102°
COASTAL CLEANUP DAY 2022
California Coastal Cleanup Day is Saturday, September 17, 2022 from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. Coastal Cleanup Day comprises the largest single effort to remove accumulated debris from California’s beaches and inland shorelines in the past years. The City of Fort Bragg “adopts” Glass Beach annually as our Cleanup Site and we need your support to make this a successful event. The City invites everyone to help protect our coastline by joining to remove trash at Glass Beach or any one of the 17 Mendocino County Cleanup Sites.
Visit mendocinolandtrust.org for details about each of the Mendocino County sites or visit coastalcleanupday.org to view an interactive map of sites all over California.
If you wish to volunteer, join us at our cleanup site (Glass Beach) or any location of your choosing. There is no need to RSVP or sign up ahead of time (unless otherwise noted on the map), just pick a location, show up, check in, and lend a hand. Supplies are provided on site, but we ask all volunteers to please bring their own work gloves, water bottle, and garbage receptacle (bucket, bag, etc.) to help reduce waste. Even if you cannot make it to one of the planned events, we encourage you to pick up trash wherever you are.
Download the Clean Swell App to go mobile and electronically tally trash collection during the event (or anytime).
Questions regarding this information should be directed to Chantell O’Neal, Assistant Director of Engineering, at (707) 961-2823 ext. 133 or email@example.com.
HEALTH DISTRICT CANDIDATES FORUM SEPTEMBER 21 (Note: Dr. Ridley-Childs just informed me that she is withdrawing from race but will still be on ballot.)
To bring the candidates into focus before the November 7 elections, Mendocinotv.com is hosting a livecast forum with the Mendocino Coast Health Care District citizens who are vying for your votes. September 21 @ 2pm Skip Taube will interview Lee Finney, Paul Katzeff, John Redding, Dawnmarie Risley-Childs, Susan Savage and Jade Tippet. Plus there will be a select studio audience primed to quiz the candidates and educate the electorate. An online chat connection will allow queries from the broader internet audience. The forum will be posted for free viewing on Mendocinotv.com.
Sponsors are sought to offset the costs of this volunteer citizens journalism and reporting. If you can help with a donation of$100, credit will be gratefully given to your business or cause during the forum.
Thank you and remember: Vote like your life depended on it—because these are our health care, tax funded, representatives who will guide the district for us for many years.
Skip Taube, 937-1437, POB 1833, Mendocino, 95460
Two wearable fiber art events this month in Mendocino taught by artist Saoirse Byrne who is featured in this month’s Word of Mouth magazine.
Meet the Artist & Free Cordage Demo This Saturday September 10th 4-7pm Catkins Boutique - Mendocino -Part of Mendocino’s Second Saturday Visit Mendocino evening event - Stop by for some refreshments and see how a necklace is made from beloved and sentimental fabrics at the lovely Catkins Boutique in the village of Mendocino. Free and open to all.
Turning Fabrics into Wearable Art, Cordage Necklace Workshop, Friday September 16th 5-7pm, Catkins Boutique, 10551 Kasten St. Mendocino, RSVP Space is limited. $75
Join artist Saoirse Byrne in learning to twine together loved fabrics into a length of cordage. Come away with a handcrafted necklace and an understanding of this ancient process. Enjoy refreshments and camaraderie at the lovely Catkins Boutique and studio. Materials provided.
Contact: Saoirse@saoirsebyrne.com, Instagram@lineage_of, Text/Call: 415-254-3938, https://www.saoirsebyrne.com/
UKIAH GRAPE GROWERS CONSIDER A RATES & FEES STUDY
by Mark Scaramella
The Ukiah Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency board spent the first part of their September 1 meeting explaining why they picked a huge Sacramento law firm called “Kronick” (aka KMTG: Kronick Moskovitz Tiedemann & Girard) from the seven water attorney outfits who bid for their contract.
Agency Advisor Elizabeth Salome explained that KMTG’S two-year, $110k contract will “Keep us away from litigation and prepare for any hiccups.” Ms. Salome also liked their “ability to respond quickly.” And, of course, “They have a deep respect for inclusion,” not to mention their “familiarity with forms and processes.”
KMTG will also provide Brown Act complaince services, water law updates, legal opinions, responses to public information requests and, probably most importantly, they will “handle a rate and fee study,” which was left unexplained, but is apparently on the horizon for groundwater users in the Ukiah Valley.
According to the agenda packet Kronick’s high-priced attorneys will “Advise the Board of Directors and staff on the legal aspect of the rate and fee study process and implementation of legally compliant rates and fees and review related documents for legal compliance. Advise the Board of Directors and staff on a legally compliant hearing and adoption process for any anticipated fee.”
But long-time inland grape growers like Al White and Glenn McGourty who have firmly ensconced themselves on the “sustainability” (i.e., sustainability of grapes) Agency board have nothing to fear because it’s only a “study.” McGourty and White and their grape grower friends will make sure the interests of the inland cheap water mafia are properly addressed in any rate and fee study should they ever get around to proposing any actual fees.
For those of you who may not know what 21st Century water attorneys look like… They certainly don’t look like the unsmiling old fashioned kind such as this:
Instead, the Kronick attorneys are a new breed, younger, prettier, happier, and oh-so inclusive. Of course, they were on hand via zoom (at hundreds of dollars each for about an hour of their precious lawyer time):
The Agency Board spent the rest of the meeting talking about who should be talking to who about what, especially including outreach to some local tribal representatives (for “inclusion” of course). Apparently it’s very important to the Agency and their lawyers that they “establish two way communications.” We agree; so far, it’s been very one-way.
Dear Anderson Valley Community,
I hope you are well. I just want to notify you regarding a change in grade school attendance at Jr./Sr. High events including sporting events. We are no longer going to have students delivered to the Junior/Senior High School for after school events. Elementary students must be attended by their adults for these events, not an elder sibling. This is for the elementary students' safety and supervision.
Your understanding of this new policy is greatly appreciated. We can not have elementary students unsupervised by a parent/guardian on the junior/senior high campus.
Louise Simson, Superintendent
AV VILLAGE MONTHLY GATHERING: Hospice Care in the Valley with Judy Nelson
Sunday, September 11th, 4 to 5:30 PM
Anderson Valley Senior Center, outside, unless it's 90º or higher, raining, too smokey, etc.
Join us for a discussion about hospice care with Judy Nelson. She will cover what it is, how she became a hospice volunteer and how you can too, what are the hospice options for valley residents, etc. With a Q and A session at the end.
Please RSVP with the coordinator, thank you!
Anica Williams, Cell: 707-684-9829, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
POST THE PRICES AT THE DOOR
Have you ever noticed that when you go to a hospital for anything you never know how much you’re going to be charged? When you go to the store to buy a pair of pants or a shirt, you see a price tag on those items, and you may or may not want to buy them at that store. And if you can get them cheaper, you will go to the other store. But when it comes to hospitals, they don’t have to leave price lists laying around. How can they get away with this?
America has the most expensive health care in the world. This is not accidental. Because this is a moneymaking business. Health care and insurance for that health care makes millionaires into billionaires. I think hospitals should be required to have price lists, so we can shop. We don’t want to get ripped off. This is ridiculous. Does anybody agree with me?
HASTINGS TENDERLOIN SCHOOL OF LAW
As an alumna of Hastings College of the Law, I’ve tried to follow the name change story: I don’t want my law degree tied to a mass murderer. But the Press Democrat story left out an important detail: the Legislature passed a bill changing the name, but what did they change it to (“UC Hastings bill passes Senate,” Press Democrat, Thursday)? Did they follow the recommendation of the school’s board of directors? Or the recommendation of the Yuki tribe? The board’s geographic name choice, San Francisco, is objectionable to the tribe, as it still carries the baggage of colonization. The other geographic name that comes to mind is the one the school was called by its students: UC Tenderloin. We even had T-shirts. So please follow up on that.
INDEPENDENT COAST OBSERVER EDITOR, Chris McManus bemoaned the nearly 30 years the town of Gualala has been working on a simple downtown “streetscape” project in last Thursday’s ICO editorial. The latest delay is an August 2022 decision by the Coastal Commission denying approval of an amendment to the Gualala Town Plan. In the past, the loss of some on-street parking was a sticking point for some downtown businesses.
NARROWLY SPEAKING, this ridiculously long process is of interest primarily to the South Coast. But looking to the north coast and the former G-P mill site, we wonder: If a simple streetscape project on the South Coast can’t get approved in almost 30 years, how long will it take for anything to be done at the G-P mill site? The Gualala project is fairly simple with seemingly minor issues. But the abandoned mill site now involves a prickly bunch of wealthy railroad/tourist attraction owners, some equally prickly local critics, the unbending city council, the coastal commission, the public utilities commission, the courts, the state toxic substances control bureaucracy, several lawyers and others including the opinionated public at large in the area. Let’s just say that we don’t expect anything to happen at the mill site in the lifetimes of anyone now living.
ATTENTION READERS AND WRITERS: Send us your list of favorite books, especially the ones that influenced the way you live and think. We'll begin with Bruce McEwen who has inspired me to list some of mine:
McEwen writes: “Taking the hint from Patrick Cockburn’s favorite novels, and having seen that all the CounterPunchers listed theirs, I decided to list mine and encourage others to do so too.”
- Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
- Reynard The Fox by Johann Wolfgang von Gothe
- Quinten Durwood by Sir Walter Scott
- H.M.S. Surprise by Patrick O’Brien
- Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
- Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault
- Grendel by John Gardner
- Heavy Weather by P.G. Wodehouse
- The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
- Siddartha by Herman Hesse
* * *
As a child, all of John R. Tunis; the Hornblower books; Chron's sports page; hagiographic biographies of great Americans; Johnny Tremain, Forbes
As a keen teen, On the Road, Kerouac; Mice and Men, Steinbeck; Catcher in the Rye, Salinger; Hemingway's short stories; Huckleberry Finn, Twain; USA Trilogy, Dos Passos (the last a shocking antidote to high school history force fed, circa '56 and '57)
Soon after, in no particular order:
- The Way We Live Now, Trollope
- King Lear, Shakespeare (more relevant in old age than now, but I liked it best of all the master's plays as a kid)
- David Copperfield, Dickens
- The Power and the Glory, Greene
- Moby Dick, Melville
- The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky
- Short Stories, Chekhov
- To the Finland Station, Wilson
- Fathers and Sons, Turgenev
- Trampling Out the Vintage, Bardacke
- Man's Fate, Malraux
- Big Trouble, Lukas
- Sentimental Education, Flaubert
- Sometimes A Great Notion, Kesey
- Miss Lonely Hearts and Day of the Locusts, West
- Desperate Characters, Paula Fox
- Dubliners, Joyce
- Essays, Orwell, in the Everyman edition, which includes them all including BBC lectures during WWII
* * *
- Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
- The Red and the Black by Stendhal
- American Renaissance by F.O. Matthiessen
- The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
- The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels
- Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
- Anna Karenina by Tolstoy
- Prison Diary by Ho Chi Minh
- Nostromo by Conrad
- The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
- Walden by Thoreau
- The Waste-Land by T.S. Eliot
* * *
- A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr
- Benito Cerino by Herman Melville (two books in one! a completely different book upon second reading!)
- The Closing Circle by Barry Commoner
- Shah of Shahs by Ryszard Kapuscinski
- Legacy of Ashes by Tim Wiener
- Red Mutiny by Neal Bascomb
- Common Ground by Anthony Lukas (especially the personality profile chapters)
- Perelandra, and The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
- All the Shah’s Men by Stephen Kinzer
- Black Cloud Rising by David Wright Falade
- Out of Control by Leslie Cockburn
- Unsafe At Any Speed by Ralph Nader
- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
- Management by Peter Drucker
- Freedomland by Richard Price
- Newjack by Ted Conover
- The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
- The Golden Age Is In Us by Alexander Cockburn
- The Brothers by David Talbot
- Tom Paine and the Clarion Call for American Independence, and American Tempest, both by Harlow Giles Unger
- Blue Blood by Ed Conlon
- The Peter Principle by Laurence Peter
- For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
- The Closers by Michael Connolly
- FDR At War (three volume set) by Nigel Hamilton
- Under Enemy Colors by S. Thomas Russell
- An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen
* * *
These books all struck a deep chord, some also blew my mind as well, reading them changed me.
- Howard’s End – E.M. Forster
- We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson
- A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
- Mansfield Park – Jane Austen
- Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
- Song of Solomon – Toni Morrison
- A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
- Four Quartets – T.S. Eliot
- The Accidental Tourist – Anne Tyler
- War Talk – Arundhati Roy
- The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra
- The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World – Iain McGilchrist
* * *
Many books have deeply impressed me over the years, but sometimes when I go back and reread them I realize I’ve changed and what worked for me back then doesn’t always work for me now… So here’s my list of favorite recent reads:
- Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
- The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
- Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass
- Typee, Herman Melville
- Magicians of the Gods, Graham Hancock
- Learn to Timber Frame, Will Beemer
- Walking with the Comrades, Arundhati Roy
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X and Alex Haley
- America: The Farewell Tour, Chris Hedges
- The Happy Isles of Oceania, Paul Theroux
- The Master and His Emissary, Iain McGilchrist
* * *
Some are more non-fiction than fiction, but nevertheless great stories. Not in any order.
- Travels with Charley – John Steinbeck
- The Innocents Abroad – Mark Twain
- Desert Solitaire – Edward Abbey
- Der Richter und Sein Henker (The Judge and His Hangman)/Der Verdacht (The Quarry) – Friedrich Durrenmatt
- Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
- Deep Water – Patricia Highsmith
- Main Street – Sinclair Lewis
- Beautiful Joe – Marshall Saunders
- The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test – Tom Wolfe
- Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail – Hunter S. Thompson
Special non-fiction mention (A terrific book): The Soul of a Tree: A Woodworker’s Reflection – George Nakashima
* * *
- Tom Jones, The History of a Foundling, Henry Fielding
- A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Tool
- The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
- Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
- Dahlgren, Samuel R. Delany
- A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
- The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Yukio Mishima
- The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse
- The Trial, Franz Kafka
- Roughing It, Mark Twain
* * *
John Sakowicz: Ten Of My Top 100
- The Tin Drum by Günter Grass
- The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth
- The Lime Twig by John Hawkes
- Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
- Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle by Vladimir Nabokov
- V. by Thomas Pynchon
- The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
- Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
- The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins
* * *
- Individualism Reconsidered by David Riesman
- The Lonely Crowd by David Riesman
- A Dictionary of Modern Usage by H.W. Fowler
- Archie & Mehitabel by Don Marquis
- The Fine Line - Making Distinctions in Everyday Life by Eviatar Zerubavel
- Oneself to Know by John Ohara
- Language in Thought and Action by S.I. Hayakawa
- Power and Innocence by Rollo May
- The Human Factor by Graham Greene
- Trouble is my Business by Raymond Chandler
- 1984 by James Orwell
- Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman
- The Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand
* * *
- The Executioner’s Song- Norman Mailer
- Into Thin Air- Jon Krakauer
- War- Sebastian Junger
- The Call of Cuthulhu- H.P. Lovecraft
- The Devil’s Dictionary- Ambrose Bierce
- House of Leaves- Mark Z. Danielewski
- Call of the Wild- Jack London
- The Rabbit Tetralogy- John Updike
- The Corrections- Jonathan Franzen
- Lolita- Vladimir Nabokov
- Cloud Atlas- David Mitchell
- The Martian Chronicles- Ray Bradbury
* * *
If I'm being completely honest, my absolute favorite books are children's novels like Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren and Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl, but a few adult ones off the top of my head:
- Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
- The Lord of The Rings trilogy by J.R.R Tolkien
- The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
- All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
- Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
* * *
- Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
- 1491 by Charles Mann
- 1493 by Charles Mann
- A Conflict Of Visions by Thomas Sowell
- Road To Serfdom by FA Hayek
- The Old Testament
- Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold
- World Order by Henry Kissinger
- Unsettled? by Steven Koonin
- Climates Of Hunger by Reid Bryson
- Land of Hope by Wilfred M McClay
- The Geology Companion by Gary and Benjamin Prost
* * *
- White Banners by Lloyd C. Douglas
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
- King Rat by James Clavell
- Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow
- In the Woods by Tanya French
- Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
- Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- River of the Wolves by Stephen Meader
- The Hobbit by Tolkien
- The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk
- The Chosen by Chaim Potok
- In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
- Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
- The World According to Garp by John Irving
Rushes of joy as I wrote each title and so many more that I will regret not mentioning once I send this. All fiction (I know ‘In Cold Blood’ is supposed to be non fiction but… Capote wasn't a reporter, he was a novelist in my mind). I enjoy non fiction but the chance to understand people and their motivations from fiction just fills my heart.
Argh. I almost forgot The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck, The Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, The Host by Stephenie Meyer (I know, I know...The Twilight series is terrible but I swear this is an amazing peek into the way human's work), Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.
* * *
I come from Maryland. I liked John Barth's account of Maryland's early history, ‘The Sotweed Factor.’ It's a feast on every page.
* * *
Katy’s list for big peopler and little people in no order
- This is Happiness…Niall Williams
- In the Beginning there was Joy…Matthew Fox
- Land of the Grasshopper Song…Mary E. Arnold
- Horizons…Barry Lopez
- Haunted Ground …Erin Heart
- Dog Star…Peter Heller
- Girl of the Limberlost…Gene Stratton-Porter
- Forever…Pete Hamill
- Paper Grail…James E. Blaylock
- Mendocino…Judith Greber
CATCH OF THE DAY, September 7, 2022
NICHOLAS COCHRAN, Redwood Valley. Under influence, false personation of another.
NEGIE FALLIS, Covelo. Parole violation.
MIGUEL FLORES, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
PAUL HEIMILLER, Redwood Valley. Lewd acts with child of 14-15 years old with perpetrator at least 10 years older.
JOHN MARKS JR., Ukiah. Concealed dirk-dagger, protective order violation, county parole violation.
JESSICA OLIVER, Covelo. Failure to appear.
KYLE THOMPSON, Fort Bragg. Unlawful display of registration, failure to appear, unspecified offense.
DESTINY TURNEY, Kelseyville/Ukiah. Domestic abuse, assault with deadly weapon not a gun, controlled substance, failure to appear.
MYCHELL VEGA-AYALA, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, failure to appear, probation revocation.
CROW'S NEST IS EMPTY
I am embarrassed and ashamed to be writing this letter for multiple reasons, mainly because at the end of my life I am here alone asking my community for assistance. A community I never really contributed to and frequently let down.
So I humbly ask you to forgive me for my life and for the following request.
My name is Alan Crow and I am a 54-year-old man who is terminally ill with "end-stage liver disease" (stage 4.) I am serving seven years in state prison alone.
I have no real family to speak of and friends are few and far between. I will be housed in a cell for most of 20 hours a day once my processing is complete. Four to seven years is my life expectancy. So I am sending this letter in hope that some kind soul in my community will find it in their heart to assist me with a television. I understand given the current climate and that so many of you are struggling to make ends meet that this is a bold, selfish request.
Please forgive me for asking and please know that if it was not for my being "terminal" I would not be asking. Again, I am embarrassed and ashamed. For what it's worth, even if you do not contribute to my television fund, I want you to know that I am praying for you. No matter what your circumstance or situation in life may be I hope you are all surrounded by love because I can assure you there is no worse feeling in the world than not having freedom and love. Especially when you need it the most!
You can confirm my Stage 4 illness with my investigator Justin Cozad at the public defender's office in Ukiah: 707-234-6952. A television in prison costs $220. Simply go to accesssecurepak.com and place a deposit in the "inmate prepaid accounts" and they will then send me a receipt for the amount you deposit. Please do not attempt to order the television. I have $30 with which to order attachments on the television. Please place your contribution in their "prepaid account." Please note my CDCR number is BS-9754. I will send this on a wing and a prayer hoping that it falls into the hands of someone who can help.
All my love and best wishes,
Alan Crow # BS 9754/B2-129
North Kern State Prison
P.O. Box 5005
Delano, CA 93216-5005
ANDERSON VALLEY WINES: As a countdown to the Harvest Tidrick, at least once a week we'll be posting a picture of an AV winery without saying where it is. Week #2 is a little less obvious but still kind of a gimme. Enter the answer in comments. Every correct response will be entered in to win the Valley geography crown. May not sound like much, but there are bragging rights involved! Gotta be in it to win it - Good luck! avwines.com/harvest-tidrick-celebration/
INTERVIEW WITH MY DOUBLE
by Jonah Raskin
Q: You have a Double?
A: I was tired of being a solitary white male. I wanted a shadow, a Double. Try one on for size. You might like one.
Q: Are you related to Jamie Raskin?
A: Funny you should ask me that.
Q: I’m serious.
A: So is my cousin Jamie and so was his father Marcus Raskin who ran the Institute for Policy Studies in DC and who noticed that he and I share the same last name. We sat down together and figured out that his ancestors and my ancestors came from the same village and that sometimes it was in Russia and sometimes in Poland. Our ancestors didn't move. The borders did. That's the history of Europe that's still being played out in Ukraine.
Q: Sounds like you and Jamie Raskin are kissin’ cousins.
A: We’re pro-democracy dudes.
Q: So you’d like to see him in The White House?
A: I’d actually like the White House to be torn down and for the Pres and First Lady to camp out in a tent on the lawn and see what it’s like not to have a house with four walls and a roof overhead.
Q: Now you’re talking like some kinda weirdo.
A: I’m asking for empathy and compassion.
Q: Wanna do away with privilege?
A: I was involved with an organization that wanted to end white skin privilege.
Q: I bet they pretended to be something other than privileged kids for a time and that most of them went back to it.
A: You sound cynical
Q: Everyone has some kind of privilege in the U S of A. The crumbs from the table here are bigger than the crumbs from the table in Iraq or Afghanistan. Hollywood ran a dictatorship for white people for decades. Just look at all the old movies.
A: You’re supposed to ask the questions, not make blanket statements. The crumbs here are toxic more often than not.
Q: Back to Jamie. What do you like about him?
A: His fearlessness. He goes head to head with power and he’s resilient. When his son committed suicide at 25 he mourned and then he was back to the thick of the fight
Q: It’s too beautiful here in California to fight the way folks fight elsewhere isn't it?
A: We worship at the altar of youth and beauty: a deadly combo, but people on the margins have battled the monster.
Q: At 80 is your life over?
A: I hope not.
Q: What books of yours are you proudest of?
A: The Mythology of Imperialism, Out of the Whale, plus my biographies of Abbie Hoffman and Allen Ginsberg and Jack London. If I could do it over again I would start with London and then tackle Ginsberg and move on to Abbie.
Q: What about the novels you have written?
A: I’m better at non-fiction than fiction, better as a journalist than a poet, but my poetry enlivens my writing for newspapers and magazines and also in the biographies I’ve published.
Q: Care to write a biography of Jamie Raskin?
A: How did you know? I would want to make it a personal book about the Trump era viewed through the eyes of two anti-Trump guys, Jamie’s and mime and, write it with kindness, too.
Q: Sympathy for the Devil?
A: The time is always ripe for revolution even when it isn’t.
A DAY IN UKIAH
The 4th Dimension
Warmest spiritual greetings, Awoke this morning in the assigned dorm bed at Building Bridges homeless shelter in Ukiah, California. Following morning ablutions and a voluntary trash & recycling chore, headed out to the Ukiah Co-op for a bowl of corn chowder soup and an egg salad sandwich, before pushing on to the Ukiah Public Library for a quick read of the New York Times, before going to the optometrist appointment, wherein the determination is that my previous prescription is too strong, and a new pair of eye glasses will be ready in 4 weeks. A good morning!
Celebrated making it thus far through the heat wave with a peppermint espresso shake at Black Oak Coffee Roasters. Now back at the library, identified with that which is prior to consciousness. As the yoga instructors all say: "Not the body, not the mind, established in the 4th dimension". Peaceout, and be free. Forever!
Craig Louis Stehr
ROAD TRIPPING - DISPATCHES FROM BLACK ROCK CITY - A UKIAH WOMAN’S FIRST TRIP TO BURNING MAN FESTIVAL
by Justine Frederiksen
After a pandemic pause, the Burning Man Festival was revived in the Nevada desert this year. And after spending two decades wanting to see it firsthand, Ukiah resident Alyssum Wier finally traveled to Black Rock City last week to immerse herself in the massive, pop-up art event.
Q. I understand you’ve been wanting to go to Burning Man for a long time. What inspired you to go this year?
A. I’ve been wanting to go since 1996. This year I had the use of a van that is outfitted for this kind of adventure and serves as an “introverted person recharging station,” so I can take some time out if I get overwhelmed. Also, a friend indirectly inspired me by asking if I was going to “Birmingham” this year and I put it together that he meant Burning Man, and when I checked in with myself, the answer was “Hell, yes!” Also, as someone who works in the arts (Wier is executive director of the Arts Council of Mendocino County), expressive events that engage human creativity tap into why I do what I do, and can be a source of professional inspiration. The economic impact of such events can be profound.
Q. For those who haven’t been, how would you describe it?
A. Like being reborn on a creative, playful, accepting planet. It’s a temporary city of 70,000 people that blooms briefly in the middle of an ancient lake bed filled with art installations, music, art cars, and themed camps. Upon arrival, you are unmoored from space and time by the layout of the city which forces you to use markers of time to describe place. Due to the enormous scale of Black Rock City, one immediately realizes that it’s impossible to take it all in and there’s something liberating about that. Each conversation and interaction feels fated. I think my friend, the writer Daniel Pinchbeck, said it best when he wrote that “(Burning Man) rewires your sense of what is possible now.”
Q. How would you describe the crowd? Is there a typical attendee? And at 48, did you feel old?
A. There is no typical attendee. There were all kinds of people there from all over the world, all ages. It’s mostly adults, but there were a few kids around. There may have been a few moments when I felt my age, but there were also many people older than me there who were fabulous and inspiring and didn’t appear to be contemplating their vintage at all. The scale of the experience and the physical endurance it requires (biking around for hours in the playa dust, hours of heat and wind, the scale of Black Rock City) all probably favor anyone who is feeling physically strong and healthy, whatever age that may be.
Q. From the attendees you talked to, what did you gather were the most common reasons why others were there?
A. An affinity for the culture of the event seems to be what draws people there, an allegiance to the 10 Principles. (According to the Burning Man website, those principles are: Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-reliance, Radical Self-expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation and Immediacy.)
Q. What did the attendees want to get out of the experience, and did they get it?
A. I think people attend to participate in the co-creation of it, rather than to get anything specific out of it. The non-commercial, gift-giving aspect means you don’t even touch money the whole time you are there. It’s common for people to rent trucks, fill them with tens of thousands of dollars worth of alcohol, then give it all away at the event. People do the same with food. It’s all about sharing, not so much about getting anything in exchange. What is gotten is the experience as a whole.
Q. Would you go again? Advice to those considering next year?
A. Yes! I would love to go again. I would advise anyone considering to read the 10 principles on the event page, and all other helpful info there about preparing, since there are a lot of practical considerations relating to survival in the desert and care for the environment at a Leave No Trace event.
Q. Who should go to Burning Man? Who shouldn’t go?
A. Anyone who is drawn to experience it should consider going. Anyone who is not drawn to it, should stay away. Many friends of mine have no desire or interest to go, and that’s OK!
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
We had this kid in HS, quit school when he was 16, got a job, bought a Plymouth Duster. He souped it up, once told me the car was pushing 400 bhp. I believe it because he could burn rubber for about two hundred feet. It was a sweet car, dark green, dual exhausts, 4 on the floor, stock bucket seats out of the showroom. He was always laying down rubber in front of the High School. I said to him “You’re at school now more than when you were a student here.”
UKRAINE, WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2022
The European Union's executive body has proposed capping the price of Russian gas, within hours of Russia's leader condemning the idea as stupidity.
Energy prices have soared in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, forcing the EU's 27 states into action.
"We must cut Russia's revenues which Putin uses to finance this atrocious war," said European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen.
But Mr Putin said Moscow would react to a cap by halting supplies completely.
"We will not supply gas, oil, coal, heating oil - we will not supply anything," he said, if it went against Russia's interests.
European leaders have accused Moscow of "weaponising" its gas exports in response to Western sanctions on Russian individuals and businesses.
While the Kremlin denies that is the case, the big Nord Stream 1 pipeline into northern Germany has been shut indefinitely, with Moscow directly blaming sanctions.
Last week, the G7 group of nations - announced a price cap for Russian oil - a move it said would reduce both Moscow's revenue for its Ukraine invasion, and inflation in the West.
Finnish researchers recently estimated that Russia has made €158bn (£136bn) from surging fossil fuel prices during the six-month invasion - with EU imports accounting for more than half of that.
G7 agrees to impose price cap on Russian oil
Speaking to an economics forum in the far eastern city of Vladivostok on Wednesday, Russia's leader condemned sanctions as economic aggression, and a "fever" posing a threat to the entire world.
The quality of life for Europeans was being sacrificed while poorer countries were losing access to food, he argued: "Now we are seeing how production and jobs in Europe are closing one after another."
Although he acknowledged inflation in Russia was rising, he minimised the effect that sanctions were having on Russian companies: "I am sure that we have not lost anything and we will not lose anything."
Russian companies have struggled to source much-needed imported parts. But Mr Putin asserted that confidence in the dollar, euro and pound was being lost before people's eyes - while Russia was emerging from the war with its sovereignty strengthened.
THEN I COMPARED THE WOUNDS in Christ's body to the mouths of a miraculous purse in which we deposit the small change of our sins. It is indeed an excellent conceit. But now let us consider the holes in our own bodies and into what these congenital wounds open. Under the skin of man is a wondrous jungle where veins like lush tropical growths hang along over-ripe organs and weed-like entrails writhe in squirming tangles of red and yellow. In this jungle, flitting from rock-gray lungs to golden intestines, from liver to lights and back to liver again, lives a bird called the soul.
The Catholic hunts this bird with bread and wine, the Hebrew with a golden ruler, the Protestant on leaden feet with leaden words, the Buddhist with gestures, the Negro with blood. I spit on them all. Phooh! And I call upon you to spit. Phooh! Do you stuff birds? No, my dears, taxidermy is not a religion. No! A thousand times no. Better, I say unto you, better a live bird in the jungle of the body than two stuffed birds on the library table.
― Nathanael West, ‘Miss Lonelyhearts’
IT’S NOT OKAY FOR GROWN ADULTS TO SAY THE UKRAINE INVASION WAS “UNPROVOKED”
by Caitlin Johnstone
On a recent interview with the Useful Idiots podcast, Noam Chomsky repeated his argument that the only reason we hear the word "unprovoked" every time anyone mentions Russia's invasion of Ukraine in the mainstream news media is because it absolutely was provoked, and they know it.
"Right now if you're a respectable writer and you want to write in the main journals, you talk about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, you have to call it 'the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine," Chomsky said. "It's a very interesting phrase; it was never used before. You look back, you look at Iraq, which was totally unprovoked, nobody ever called it 'the unprovoked invasion of Iraq.' In fact I don't know if the term was ever used — if it was it was very marginal. Now you look it up on Google, and hundreds of thousands of hits. Every article that comes out has to talk about the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine."
"Why? Because they know perfectly well it was provoked," Chomsky said. "That doesn't justify it, but it was massively provoked. Top US diplomats have been talking about this for 30 years, even the head of the CIA."
Chomsky is of course correct here. The imperial media and their brainwashed automatons have spent half a year mindlessly bleating the word "unprovoked" in relation to this war, but one question none of them ever have a straight answer for is this: if the invasion of Ukraine was unprovoked, how come so many western experts spent years warning that the actions of western governments would provoke an invasion of Ukraine?
Because, as Chomsky notes, that is indeed the case. A few days after the invasion began this past February a guy named Arnaud Bertrand put together an extremely viral Twitter thread that just goes on and on and on about the various diplomats, analysts and academics in the west who have over the years been warning that a dangerous confrontation with Russia was coming because of NATO advancements toward its borders, interventionism in Ukraine, and various other aggressions. It contains examples like John Mearsheimer explicitly warning in 2015 that "the west is leading Ukraine down the primrose path, and the end result is that Ukraine is going to get wrecked," and Pat Buchanan warning all the way back in 1999 that "By moving NATO onto Russia's front porch, we have scheduled a twenty-first-century confrontation."
Empire apologists love claiming that the invasion of Ukraine had nothing to do with NATO expansionism (their claims generally based on brazen misrepresentations of what Vladimir Putin has said about Russia's reasons for the war), but that's silly. The US war machine was continuing to taunt the possibility of NATO membership for Ukraine right up until the invasion, a threat it refused to take off the table since placing it there in 2008 despite knowing full well that this threat was an incendiary provocation to Moscow.
This is to say nothing of the US empire actively fomenting a violent uprising in 2014 which ousted Kyiv's sitting government and fractured the nation between its more Moscow-loyal populations to the east and the more US/EU-friendly parts of the country. This led to the annexation of Crimea (overwhelmingly supported by the people who live there) and eight years of brutal warfare against Russia-backed separatists in the Donbas. Ukrainian attacks on those separatists are known to have increased exponentially in the days leading up to the invasion, and it has been argued that this is what provoked Putin's final decision to commit to invading (which was a last-minute decision according to US intelligence).
The US power alliance could very easily have prevented this war with a few low-cost concessions like enshrining Ukrainian neutrality, rolling back its war machinery from Russia's borders and sincerely pursuing detente with Moscow instead of shredding treaties and ramping up cold war escalations. Hell, it could likely have prevented this war just by protecting President Zelensky from the anti-Moscow far right nationalists who were openly threatening to lynch him if he began honoring the Minsk agreements and pursuing peace with Russia, as he was originally elected to do.
Instead it knowingly chose the opposite course: continuing to float the possibility of formal NATO membership for Ukraine while pouring weapons into the nation and making it more and more of a de facto NATO member with closer and closer intimacy with the US war machine, and then either ordering, encouraging or tolerating Ukraine's aggressive assault on Donbas separatists.
Why did the empire opt for provocation over peace? Congressman Adam Schiff gave a pretty good answer to that question in January of 2020 as the road to war was being paved: "so that we can fight Russia over there, and we don’t have to fight Russia here." If you relinquish the infantile idea that the US empire is helping its good friend Ukraine because it loves the Ukrainian people and wants them to have freedom and democracy, it's not hard to see that the US sparked a convenient proxy war because it was in its geostrategic interests to do so, and because it wouldn't be their lives and property getting laid to waste.
Brian Berletic put out a good video a few days ago about a Pentagon-funded 2019 Rand Corporation paper titled "Extending Russia - Competing from Advantageous Ground," which is exactly what it sounds like. The US Army-commissioned paper details how the empire can use proxy warfare, economic warfare and other cold war tactics to push its longtime geopolitical foe to the brink without costing American lives or sparking a nuclear conflict. It mentions Ukraine hundreds of times, and it explicitly discusses the same economic warfare tactics we're seeing today like sanctions and attacking Russia's energy interests in Europe (the latter of which Berletic points out is also being used to bolster US dominance over its vassals in the EU).
The paper even explicitly advocates continuing to threaten NATO membership with Ukraine to draw out an aggressive response from Moscow, saying, "While NATO’s requirement for unanimity makes it unlikely that Ukraine could gain membership in the foreseeable future, Washington’s pushing this possibility could boost Ukrainian resolve while leading Russia to redouble its efforts to forestall such a development."
President Biden has made calls for regime change in Moscow that can't even really be called thinly disguised, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has openly said that the plan is to use this war to "weaken" Russia, which other US officials have told the press is indeed the policy. Comments from the Biden administration continually make it clear that the US alliance is buckling down to keep this war going for years to come, which would fit in nicely with Washington's known track record of deliberately drawing Russia into military quagmires against US proxies in both Afghanistan and Syria.
So make no mistake, behind all the phony hand-wringing and flag-waving, the US-centralized empire is getting exactly what it wants from this conflict. It gets to overextend Russia militarily and financially, promote its narratives around the world, rehabilitate the image of US interventionism, expand internet censorship, expand militarily, bolster control over its European client states, and all it costs is a little pretend empire money that gets funneled into the military-industrial complex anyway.
Which is why when it looked like peace was at risk of breaking out in the early days of the conflict, the empire sent in Boris Johnson to tell Zelensky that even if he is ready for the war to end, his partners to the west were not.…
IN 1939 ARTHUR ROTHSTEIN made an extensive photo survey of Colorado. He traveled from the bustling stockyards of Denver to remote farms and ranches west of the Continental Divide. In Montrose, he photographed this typical small-town scene. In big cities newspaper distributors had under-paid homeless or desperate children for decades, but in small towns the practice was typically less exploitive. An enterprising “newsie” could earn pocket change by hawking papers for a few hours each day.
Montrose, a prosperous town on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains, happened to be the hometown of Roy Stryker, the visionary director of Rothstein’s Photo Unit at the U.S. Farm Security Administration. The town owed much of its prosperity to the Gunnison Tunnel, a six-mile-long engineering marvel that diverts Gunnison River water to irrigate about 80,000 acres of arid land surrounding Montrose. The State of Colorado started, and then abandoned the project. President Theodore Roosevelt approved federal financing and the US Bureau of Reclamation completed the tunnel in 1909.
BOOK REVIEW: HOW THE WEST BROUGHT WAR TO UKRAINE
Ukraine is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a vital security interest of the United States. In fact, Ukraine hardly matters at all. In contrast, for Russia — with its 1,200-mile shared border and its history of three major land-route invasions from the West, the most recent of which, during World War II, caused the death of roughly 13 percent of the entire Russian population — Ukraine is the most vital of national interests. The underlying cause of the war lies not in an unbridled expansionism of Mr. Putin, or in paranoid delusions of military planners in the Kremlin, but in a 30-year history of Western provocations, directed at Russia, that began during the dissolution of the Soviet Union and continued to the start of the war. These provocations placed Russia in an untenable situation, for which war seemed, to Mr. Putin and his military staff, the only workable solution. (p. 7) Abelow documents his thesis to the hilt, placing great emphasis on the promise of the United States to refrain from expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders.
IF THE AMERICAN DREAM IS NOW KIM KARDASHIAN Flashing Her Big Ass In Front Of The Flag, Then It’s Become A Nightmare
by Piers Morgan
“The American Dream,” said legendary TV newsman Dan Rather, “is one of the greatest ideas in the history of human achievement.”
But I guess it depends on exactly what you think the American Dream means?
The phrase was first coined in a best-selling book in 1931 titled “Epic of America” by James Truslow Adams, who described it as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”
This seems entirely consistent with the ethos of the Declaration of Independence, which states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Or as the Rev. Jesse Jackson put it: “The American dream is one big tent. And on that big tent, you have four basic promises: equal protection under the law, equal opportunity, equal access, and fair share.”
In other words, the United States should be a country built around equality, fairness and meritocracy — and open to all.
That’s certainly always been my belief, and I say that as someone who has benefited hugely from the American Dream ever since I first came to live and work here in 2006, ironically to judge a show called “America’s Got Talent.”
But it turns out we were all wrong!
The American Dream is apparently not about any of that at all.
At least not according to Kim Kardashian, a woman devoid of any discernible talent whose entire career was founded on her participation in a lurid sex tape.
She believes it’s about flashing her big ass in front of the American flag.
I wish I were joking.
But sadly, I’m not.
This morning, she tweeted the cover of Interview magazine’s new “American Dream Issue” and there she was, barely recognizable from severe and deeply unflattering facial airbrushing, in a denim trouser-suit with her pants pulled down and her ginormous and gravitationally challenged naked backside bursting out of the top.
All with the stars-and-stripes flag of the United States of America as the backdrop.
My first thought when I saw it was to burst into derisive laughter, which is my usual reaction to anything the Kardashians ever do.
But my second thought was one of genuine disgust.
Is THIS the new American Dream?
Is THIS what the Founding Fathers meant when they first devised the Constitution?
Is THIS the spirit of the big tent that Jesse Jackson imagined? (On a purely practical point, I doubt there’s a tent big enough anywhere in America to house that derriere.)
Kardashian discussed claims about her lack of talent in the interview.
Forgive me if I barf.
I’m not even American, but I found this cover horribly offensive and inappropriate — not because I’m shocked to see Ms. Kardashian’s flesh yet again infecting social media at warp speed like a COVID-style digital virus, but because her claim that it represents the American Dream is such a grotesque desecration of what it should represent. The accompanying interview is breathtaking both in its vacuity and utter delusion.
When asked what her talent is, Kardashian replies: “Yeah, people used to say that [she’s talentless] and I’m like, ‘Do I need to be a f–king circus animal?’” I can quite understand why this suggestion would be so offensive to someone who performs dumb stunts while naked for the delectation of the paying public.
But it’s how she then defines her “talent” that says all you need to know about how Kim Kardashian views the American Dream.
“People used to be like, ‘Well, what do you do? What’s your talent?’ And I’m like, ‘Didn’t know I needed one.’ I mean, I can give you a million f–king talents. I can cook well, use my toes for anything. I could tell you the weirdest f–king s–t on the planet. But I think my talent is marketing and the business behind selling products and knowing what the customer wants. I wouldn’t say that’s a talent. Maybe it is talent, I don’t know.”
No, Kim, it’s not.
The interviewer declared that Kardashian is “the American Dream.”
Your entire fame and fortune are entirely attributable to your shameless, cynical exploitation of your sex life and naked body, and short-lived marriage to one of the world’s biggest and most genuinely talented music stars, Kanye West.
Your only “talent” has been in duping so many people into believing you’re someone worthy of their misguided idolatry and money.
And as such, you shouldn’t be any kind of aspirational role model for younger generations to admire or follow.
The funniest part of the interview comes when she’s asked, “Do you consider yourself an exhibitionist?” and replies: “Not really.”
Moments later, the interviewer gushes: “Okay, Kim, we did it. You’re the American Dream.”
If it’s truly the case that the American Dream is now defined by someone with zero talent, famous for having sex on tape and flashing her flash for cash, then it’s time everyone woke the hell up.
Just as American democracy will wither and die — a shocking new poll says two-thirds of Americans believe this is already happening — if those who participate in it refuse to accept the results of democratic elections (I’m looking at you, Donald), so the American Dream will fade away into pointless mockery if a reality TV stripper is allowed to hijack it for her own ruthless commercial devices.
You’re not the American Dream, Kim, you’re the American Nightmare.
THE PEOPLE VS. THE UNELECTED
Review of ‘The Lords of Easy Money’ by Christopher Leonard
by Matt Taibbi
In Chicago on July 8, 1896, a former Nebraska congressman named William Jennings Bryan strode onstage at the Democratic National Convention and delivered one of the most famous speeches in American history. A populist and free silver advocate, Jennings stood in opposition to the Wall Street-backed Republican Party, which sought more power for creditors by supporting a gold standard. “You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns,” Bryan thundered, to close his address. “You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”
Bryan’s speech can feel inaccessible today because it belonged to an era when “managing the money supply was still in the public realm of democratic action,” as author Christopher Leonard puts it in his remarkable book The Lords of Easy Money. The fights that now take place in the secrecy of the Federal Reserve were then a near-constant concern of congress and a source of bitter conflict between east and west, rich and poor, city-dwellers and farmers. Silver dollars had the de factoimpact of increasing the money supply and making farm or prospecting debt easier to repay, while the “organized wealth” Bryan opposed sought a gold standard to keep returns on those loans high. The “Cross of Gold” speech came just after a Great Financial Panic in 1893, and though he would lose to William McKinley, Bryan set the terms for generations of controversies about who got to control the levers of finance.
On May 15, 2010, at a similar juncture a few years removed from a financial crash, a little-known Federal Reserve Bank president from Kansas City named Thomas Hoenig gave a controversial interview to the Wall Street Journal, called “The Fed’s Monetary Dissident.” Hoenig spoke as the economy was pulling out of the 2008 emergency, and as a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee or FOMC, which helps set interest rates, he took the rare step of publicly disagreeing with peers. “We’ve gotten through the crisis,” he said. “We ought to be thinking about the long run.” Hoenig violated an unspoken taboo, reminding readers that the Fed’s work isn’t just a technocratic process, but “also an allocative policy,” i.e. one that helped pick society’s economic winners and losers — the stuff of politics.
Under the leadership of its soft-spoken, bearded, nebbishy new chairman Ben Bernanke, the central bank had just undertaken the financial equivalent of a Normandy invasion in response to the 2008 crash, adding $1.2 trillion to the money supply in two years, or more than it had in total in every year between 1913 and 2008. Hoenig was concerned because instead of taking early signs of recovery as a chance to pull back, Bernanke was pouring more troops into theater, flooding the economy with money with plans to keep borrowing rates at or near zero for “an extended period” (it would turn out to be ten years). Hoenig worried the Fed was addicting Wall Street to cheap cash, upsetting the delicate balance of financial power he’d spent a life trying to maintain. “I can’t guarantee the carpenter down the street a margin,” he said. “I really don’t think we should be guaranteeing Wall Street… by guaranteeing them a zero or near zero interest rate environment.”
Hoenig’s clipped remarks didn’t land with the fanfare of Bryan’s grandiloquent oratory. In fact, it’s hard to imagine two men with less in common, stylistically. Hoenig was and is a reserved former soldier and number-cruncher who disdained limelight and believed in economy in all things, including words, while Bryan was a man born for the soapbox. Moreover, in a misdiagnosis that that persists to this day, Hoenig’s remarks were criticized as the tightwad meanderings of a hard-money reactionary, an impression that grew stronger when “The Fed’s dissident” was lionized in congressional hearings by the likes of “End the Fed” campaigner and gold-standard advocate Ron Paul. If Bryan wanted to loosen the money supply, and Hoenig wanted to rein it in, what linked them? What could American history’s prototype populist possibly share with a fusty economic traditionalist like Hoenig?
In fact there were similarities. Hoenig’s critics tended to see things backwards, pegging beliefs of his we’d now recognize as economic populism as conservatism, and more importantly mis-labeling the bank-friendly, trickle-down policies of Bernanke as liberal progressivism. This radical switcheroo, turning traditional perceptions of liberalism and conservatism on their head, soon spread to non-financial arenas, as elite officials pitched themselves as progressives, deriding opponents as conspiracist reactionaries. Hoenig is essentially patient zero of this phenomenon, and his story is explained brilliantly in The Lords of Easy Money,in my mind the first book that makes the inner workings of the Fed truly accessible to ordinary readers.
Leonard gets particularly high marks because the Fed — whose officials always used dullness and inscrutability to deflect public scrutiny — is nearly impossible to make interesting and understandable. Leonard pulls it off. A neophyte will come away from The Lords of Easy Money understanding the mechanics of money creation, and the bank’s awesome influence in widening the wealth gap and driving political divisions.
Leonard was a business journalist of repute before, having published at The Washington Postand Fortune and written well-received books about the food business (The Meat Racket) and Koch Industries (Kochland). But sometimes a writer is struck like a thunderbolt by just the right subject at just the right time, and this seems to have happened to Leonard with the Fed. He tells his story through his tremendous source Hoenig, who provides the reader with a tour of the Federal Reserve bureaucracy that’s as clear as a glass-bottomed boat ride. Sometimes also history takes a turn before publication that gives a book a chance to be iconic in its timeliness, and here, too, Hoenig’s post-2008 warnings unfortunately look more prophetic by the minute.
Generations of news consumers had been trained to think the Fed’s decisions to raise or lower interest rates as a narrowly construed, mechanical process. When inflation was high, officials like the famed Paul Volcker raised rates. When inflation was low, and/or the economy needed a boost, wise officials like Alan Greenspan lowered them. We were told this was all we needed to know.
Greenspan in particular was instrumental in designing an intellectual cloaking device called “Fedspeak,” speaking in a language as inaccessible to ordinary people as Klingon, while reinforcing a myth that the Fed’s business was difficult, technical, and apolitical. “Any average citizens who heard snippets of Greenspan’s comments,” Leonard quips, “couldn’t be blamed if they came to believe that whatever the Fed was doing, it must be so complex that no normal human could dare to talk about it, let alone criticize it.” Leonard cites a hilarious example of Greenspan’s peculiar brand of non-English, from congressional testimony:
The fact that economic performance strengthened as inflation subsided should not have been surprising, given that risk premiums and economic disincentives to invest in productive capital diminish as product prices become more stable. But the extent to which strong growth and high resource utilization have been joined with low inflation over an extended period is nevertheless extraordinary…
While at least some Americans could wrap their heads around price inflation, i.e. the idea that the prices of bread or gasoline could rise as banks introduced more money into the system, they knew little (and were encouraged to know little) about the parallel issue of asset inflation. Hoenig, who rose as a bank examiner in the Kansas City Fed, saw how Fed policy created deadly asset bubbles, inexorably herding banks, farmers, and oil producers alike toward cycles of economic ruin.
When the Fed kept money “too cheap for too long,” as Leonard put it, it forced the hands of everyone in a business ecosystem. Leonard explains what Hoenig saw happen to farmers when the Federal Open Market Committee — essentially, the closed society of Fed officials who set rates — kept the price of money down:
“When the FOMC kept interest rates low, it encouraged farmers to take on more cheap debt and buy more land. This, in turn, stoked demand for farmland, which pushed up land prices. The higher land prices encouraged more people to borrow and buy yet more land. The bankers’ logic followed a similar path. The bankers saw farmland as collateral on the loans, and they believed the collateral would only rise in value. More lending led to more buying, which led to higher prices, which led to more lending.”
For a period of his career, Hoenig had a job comparable to cops or soldiers who make death notifications to families, or to the infamous “Turk” who roams the halls of NFL stadiums on cut-down day. When an enterprise was no longer considered viable enough to be eligible for emergency loans under the Fed’s discount window, Hoenig would have to travel in person to deliver the bad news to company leaders, news that often meant the deaths of companies and by extension, sometimes, the communities who depended upon their jobs. The business leaders often took the news badly. “You could empathize,” Hoenig said. “Lives were destroyed.”
Hoenig seemed suited for this unpleasant duty, but along the way he began to be troubled by some of the underlying dynamics. For instance, he was charged with breaking the bad news to Penn Square, an Oklahoma-based bank that over-extended itself by making reams of risky loans to energy producers on the premise that oil prices would rise indefinitely. The bank of course was at fault, but an not-entirely-illogical answer was beginning to come back:
Tom Hoenig had the duty of breaking the news to Penn Square. The bankers’ response fit the pattern that Hoenig had grown accustomed to. “They would say: ‘It’s your fault that we’re failing. If you gave us more time we could work out of this,” he recalled.
It was getting harder to ignore the argument that by causing asset prices to rise, the Fed’s easy money essentially compelled farmers to buy more land, or banks to invest in risky oil wells. Worse, once the Fed itself was caught in the cycle, it felt more and more pressure to keep the firehose on full blast. Once bubbles begin to inflate, and the prices of farmland or oil wells or internet stocks or residential housing or really anything at all begin to ascend, the slightest downturn in the available credit would send the edifice crumbling.
Now, proximity to the Fed’s money supply became a determining factor in survival. Big banks choked with systemic risk either had to become too big to fail or be permitted to “drink themselves sober” after crashes with cheap Fed financing, as Greenspan biographer William Fleckenstein once put it. But individual savers, smaller firms and ex-factory towns ruined by burst bubbles don’t recover.
This dynamic caused a cataclysm in 2008, the ultimate example of an asset bubble. Easy money massively inflated the value of mortgage securities, and storied companies like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers went all-in on catastrophic bets on ascending home values. The crash ironically was accelerated by a panicked Fed reaction to the bubble, in which Bernanke (who had just replaced Greenspan as chair) abruptly hiked rates to nearly 5 percent in the spring of 2006, sending housing prices plummeting. Hoenig opposed this sudden slamming on of the brakes — the pattern of Fed officials first accelerating too fast and later slamming the money faucet off too suddenly is consistent through the present moment — but the damage had been done. Full meltdown ensued in September of 2008, threatening to grind the entire global financial system to a halt. Subsequent bailout efforts revealed a major change in American governance.
Specifically, the Fed had replaced congress and the White House as the main driver of economic policy, being able to act more quickly and in greater volume in a crisis than the old fiscal authorities. Conservative movements like the Tea Party that focused on “government spending” and Treasury-led bailouts like the TARP program were really looking in the wrong place, as the Fed was executing much huger relief programs essentially in secret. When Barack Obama was elected and made former New York Fed chief Tim Geithner his Treasury Secretary, it guaranteed absolute continuity with these less heralded bailout schemes Geithner had begun at the end of the Bush presidency. As Leonard notes, these policies had a specific aim:
“Geithner’s approach to the crisis embodied the modern Democratic Party’s theory of bank regulation. The top priority was to protect the financial stability of banks rather than to close them down or restructure them as FDR had done during the Great Depression.”
This was a nuclear-powered version of the trickle-down economics liberals had panned in the Reagan years. The bailouts were designed to prioritize recapitalizing the same financial sector that had just overinflated history’s hugest bubble, on the theory that this would unfreeze a panicked lending environment and create jobs. However, only half of that plan panned out. Though banks were back making monster profits in under a year — Goldman, Sachs doubled projections with a $1.7 billion profit in the first quarter of 2009, less than six months after needing an emergency application for lifesaving cash from the Fed’s discount window to survive — unemployment stayed high, surging to 9.8% by the close of 2010. This set the stage for another unprecedented intervention called Quantitative Easing. This Bernanke-led program would add roughly $4 trillion to the money supply, at the time the largest economic stimulus program in history.
QE was sold to the public as a measure to “rescue the economy,” and the mainstream press framed Bernanke’s actions as the work of a man who was willing to spend what it took to put ordinary people back to work. Leonard describes how Scott Pelley at 60 Minutesdepicted Bernanke as a man of the people, showing him hanging out at a drugstore in his home town of Dillon, South Carolina. “I come from Main Street,'“ he said. “This is my background.”
This propaganda belied a profound, ugly truth about both QE and the ten years of zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) Bernanke used to pump the finance sector full of money: it didn’t work. Whether by accident or design, ZIRP and QE — which were premised on the highly dubious belief that creating a “wealth effect” in the upper ranks of society would bleed downward — not only incentivized extreme risk-taking and punished ordinary savers, but more importantly provided direct incentive to hoard money rather than create jobs. In a key passage, Leonard describes the frank admission of a major business leader, as told to Dallas Fed chief Richard Fisher:
“Fisher said that he had recently spoken with the chief financial officer of Texas Instruments, who explained how the company was managing money in the age of ZIRP. The company had just borrowed $1.5 billion in cheap debt, but it didn’t plan to use the cash to build a factory, invest in research, or hire workers. Instead, the company used the money to buy back shares of its own stock.
“This made sense because the stocks paid a dividend of 2.5 percent, while the debt only cost between 0.45 percent and 1.6 percent to borrow. It was a finely played maneuver of financial engineering that increased the company’s debt, drove up its stock price, and gave a handsome reward to shareholders. Fisher drove home the point by relating his conversation with the CFO. ‘He said—and I have his permission to quote—“I’m not going to use it to create a single job”.’ ”
This was and is the essence of the QE era. Though the Fed was ostensibly trying to combat unemployment and stimulate growth, its post-2008 plan ended up a thinly disguised subsidy for the very wealthy, leaving the bulk of the population to suck eggs. “It was entirely clear to leaders at the Fed,” Leonard notes, “that to achieve the wealth effect, ZIRP must first and foremost benefit the very richest people in the country.” It should have been obvious that a devastating problem was built into a policy whose chief by-product was asset inflation, namely that it only worked for people with assets:
“In early 2012, the richest 1 percent of Americans owned about 25 percent of all assets. The bottom half of all Americans owned only 6.5 percent of all assets. When the Fed stoked asset prices, it was helping a vanishingly small group of people at the top.”
The economy evolved much as Hoenig and other critics warned it would, committing the Fed to “near-permanent intervention” and widening the wealth gap. As a result, he’d be introduced to the same kind of withering criticism once directed at Bryan.
As the inimitable Thomas Frank wrote about in The People, No, Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” speech ushered in generations of savage propaganda from “sound money” advocates in Wall Street and Washington. Jennings himself was alternately depicted in magazines as Satan, a bloodthirsty pirate, and a serpent swallowing the Democratic Party itself.
Hoenig didn’t come in for treatment quite so harsh, but was an early witness to a new and vicious style of neo-aristocratic politics. Hoenig was no Bryan, and would likely blanch at being called a populist, but he was suggesting a danger in concentrating so much influence in the hands of banking powers. More than that, he committed the cardinal sin of the new elite religion, publicly suggesting fallibility of the expert class, criticizing the bank’s policies in the Wall Street Journal. In one of the more infuriating passages of the book, Leonard recreates through transcripts the seething bureaucratic cold of a key meeting of the FOMC from November 2, 2010, in which the assembled pseudo-oligarchs blasted Hoenig for this public breach of decorum.
Bernanke spoke in more comprehensible English than his predecessor, but he replaced Greenspan’s inscrutability with a grating false modesty and an off-putting habit of indirectness, often presenting his own dictates as consensus. He started his criticism of Hoenig by saying he wanted to introduce a “squishy” topic: the “tendency for people to take very strong, very inflexible positions on policy matters prior to the meetings at which those decisions will be made.” As if offhandedly, he suggested the group should look at the “protocol for public statements” and see if “a more cooperative solution” to such outbursts could be found.
Member Janet Yellen, then comparatively unknown, heartily agreed with the boss, saying the group’s “external communications” were “damaging our credibility and our reputation.” Hoenig was being introduced to the vibe now standard everywhere from op-ed pages to campuses to the White House briefing room, where unanimity is expected and dissent considered dangerous and a betrayal.
Leonard was finishing his book just as the Fed was embarking on a boffo sequel to Quantitative Easing, obliterating records for monetary intervention by pumping a staggering $4.6 trillion into the economy in response to the Covid disaster. America’s billionaires roughly doubled their net worth across the two years of extreme asset inflation that ensued, cashing in on yet another period of wild yield-chasing in which insiders reaped huge rewards from speculative investments in everything from corporate takeovers to crypto to pre-IPO fundraising for electric air taxis or health and wellness companies fronted by Sammy Hagar. Now the party is ending and Bernanke’s successor Jay Powell is repeating the pattern of suddenly slamming on the brakes after years of reckless stimulus. Once again, the wealth gap widened significantly on the back of aggressive monetary policy, and renters, savers, and the poor are being set up to take the pain in the coming period of belt-tightening.
As famed Secrets of the Temple author Bill Grieder once observed, the Fed’s bureaucratic structure eerily mirrors the Vatican’s, featuring a Pope, a college of cardinals, and a curia in the form of administrative staff, all communicating with the world through smoke signals about the latest divinations of America’s last true national religion, the magical process of money creation. Leonard in his interview describes zeroing in on Hoenig out of pure journalistic instinct, sensing a great story underneath, and he was right. In The Lords of Easy Money he found a story anyone can understand, that of a man cast out by a corrupt church for the crime of trying to bring the religion to the people, while the unelected Bernankes, Powells, and Yellens of the world sought to keep their work shrouded in Latin. Leonard does right by his excellent source by translating this epic story in clear, convincing language, demystifying an infamously impenetrable bureaucracy in the process and helping introduce us to the real political paradigm of our age, the one destined to replace blue versus red — that of insiders versus outsiders.