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DRY WEATHER with warm interior daytime temperatures are forecast through Monday. Some coastal low clouds and fog will burn off by late morning. Otherwise, expect abundant sunshine. A weak frontal system will clip the northern portion of the area, bringing a chance of light rain to Del Norte County Tuesday night and early Wednesday. (NWS)
TWO NEW FACES attended last Wednesday’s Community Services District Board meeting, both of whom are slated to take their seats replacing Board members Paul Soderrman, who resigned last month, and Larry Mailliard who will finish his term in December. We’re not sure of the timing, but the two prospective new Board members are Williams Nayes of Yorkville, a retired Pharma exec and former Army Lt. Colonel, and Steven Snyder, loosely associate with the Land Trust and father of former high school principal, Jim Snyder. Mr. Nayes was the only candidate to file for one of the two open seats, and Mr. Snyder was the only applicant for appointment to the other vacancy. The two new trustees will join Chair Valerie Hanelt, and directors Kathleen McKenna and Francois Christien. (Mark Scaramella)
Congratulations to Dylan Taube and friends on landing possibly the largest Yellowfin Tuna ever caught off the Mendocino coast! Estimated @ 240lbs! 30 miles west of Fort Bragg.
CASPAR BREAKFAST / GRASSROOTS GATHERING
Once a year, the GrassRoots Institute holds a gathering and puts out a call to rally the public to join us to explore what residents of Mendocino County can do to educate ourselves about the challenges facing our communities and organize ourselves to promote progressive solutions for the common good. There will be information about local events and organizations to plug into, as well as lots of information sharing and discussion about issues confronting all of us.
On this coming Sunday, September 25th from Noon to 2 pm, we will be gathering at the Caspar Community Center in the heart of Caspar off Hwy 1, to explore possibilities for grassroots education & action in our county.
Fort Bragg City Council Vice Chair, Jessica Morsell-Haye will kick off the meeting by sharing some of her insights into the challenges facing Fort Bragg and our coast.
We currently have 8 GrassRoots Institute workgroups working on a host of local issues - Capturing/Storing Rainwater & Water Recycling/Conservation, Local Elections, Climate Change Action, Affordable Housing & Ag Trusts, Mendocino’s Future, Preserving Forests, Invasive Plant Eradication, and Restoring & Preserving Coastal Headlands, etc. But at our annual general meeting, we encourage folks to come with ideas and proposals for new workgroups to address the issues they want to work on in their communities.
Also - The Caspar Community Center is holding a public breakfast from 9 am to 11 am, so come early if you can and enjoy a great breakfast and then stick around for the GrassRoots Institute General Meeting at noon! Everyone is invited! - I look forward to seeing you soon! We’ll be meeting outside so dress in layers and bring a lawn chair if you’d like. Let me know if you have questions or want additional information.
Peter McNamee, email@example.com
CELLIST EXTRAORDINAIRE JOEL COHEN AND FRIENDS will perform an engaging program of works for piano quintet and larger string ensemble. Among the pieces featured for this concert will be Dvorak’s piano quintet in A major and Bloch’s Concerto Grosso #1 for 10 players! This will be a rare opportunity to hear Mendocino Coast’s top-string players in perfect unison resonate in Preston Hall at Mendocino Presbyterian Church, Sunday, September 25 at 3 pm: symphonyoftheredwoods.org/opus.php
ANDERSON VALLEY VILLAGE list of events: andersonvalley.helpfulvillage.com/events/index_list
NARCAN PROJECT UPDATE...
After spending the past four months doing everything I can think of, (beyond prostituting myself), to obtain funding/location for a Narcan vending machine to place in the Valley, (a very special thank you to Ted Williams, District 5 Supervisor, for doing absolutely nothing), I’ve taken another route.
For those who may remain uninformed on the issue, Narcan and Naloxone are opioid-receptor blockers. In the event of an overdose of any type of opioid, (heroin, morphine, hydrocodone, etc., and Fentanyl in particular), these drugs immediately counter the effects of the opioid in the user’s system, thereby saving a life.
The Fentanyl crisis that we’ve been hearing and reading so much about is now here, in our valley, and it’s killing our children. I, for one, will not just sit here and watch kids die. Or anyone else, for that matter. Short of identifying and lynching those responsible for the distribution of this poison, there is something that we can all do to prevent needless loss of life; keep a dose or two of Narcan close at hand at all times. It comes in the form of a nasal spray and can be easily administered by just about anyone, with no fear of liability or reprisal due to AB 472, California’s “Good Samaritan Law.” In a nutshell, if you are in the act of trying to save the life of a suspected overdose victim, you will NOT be held legally, financially, or morally responsible for the outcome. Period.
In my search for assistance with this problem, I was connected with the amazing staff of the County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services. Together we have implemented a program of education in the local school system and are working to distribute as much Narcan as possible to anyone who is willing to help save lives. The drug is given, free of charge or stigma, to anyone who wants it. It can be obtained at the Mendocino Public Health Office located at 1120 S. Dora Street in Ukiah, along with a very brief tutorial on how to dispense it. Literally, a five-year-old child could do it.. God forbid that ever be necessary.
Should you wish to have a larger supply, I am happy to put you in contact with the County Health representative I’ve been dealing with. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call/text me at (707) 489-2915.
What we have seen thus far is only the tip of the iceberg. Believe it or not, our sparsely populated county of Mendocino ranks SECOND among all the counties in California in opioid overdose fatalities. Think about that for a moment. I’ll wait…
We trump San Francisco and Los Angeles, put together. WTF?!?
Together we can, at the very least, try and bring someone back from the abyss. The life you save may be your own child, your spouse, your neighbor… Perhaps even your Board of Supervisors’ representative.
As always, very sincerely yours,
GOT TO THE BOONVILLE FAIR early Friday morning while the exhibits were still fresh. Downed my annual slice of pie served up by, I think, Mrs. Gowan-Espinoza. Pleased to see the high school potato booth up and running again, hustled past the delusional array of the Democrat's booth occupied by Rob and Barbara Goodell but didn't see Stan Anderson, the only visible Republican in the county besides Al Kubanis. I wanted to see if Anderson had hauled out his cardboard Trump. He and his totemic doppleganger hadn't arrived. Stan, incidentally, is an affable dude aside from his lamentable political views, and he is no possible relation to the Anderson writing this because there are not now nor has there ever been a Republican in our family. Since Lincoln, that is, although my mother confessed she would have voted for Nixon, “but I don't like his jowls.” The main body of my family arrived mid-morning Saturday. My heirs and assignees, the little ones, love the Fair. We all do. But I like to get in and out early before the crowds, although the crowds are the most wonderful exhibit of all.
AV, EYES ONLY: A burglary on Gschwend Road netted the burglar two guns, rifles, we understand. The name of the alleged perp, a drug person, is on all Deepend lips.
AS THE ANDERSON VALLEY emerges from the plague, the Apple Fair emerges with it in the traditional Apple Bowl football game at the Boonville Fairgrounds, this year with Potter Valley's visiting Bearcats taking on Coach John Toohey's Panthers. Ordinarily, the Apple Bowl football contest is played on Friday night, opening day of the adjoining Fair. But the refs, we learned, couldn't make it Friday night and high school games require four of them, all paid, soooooo to accommodate the quartet of officials — four extremely well-nourished, not particularly mobile dudes — the Apple Bowl was Thursday afternoon, 5pm.
PANTHER FUTBOL now occupies Friday night. And this Friday night it was the futbol Panthers versus Tech, a Santa Rosa tech school, it seems — and Saturday night the rodeo thundered onto the soft, green grass of the busy oval, freshened by the recent rains, and then, on Sunday morning, the popular sheep dog trials took center stage.
POTTER VALLEY brought 13 Bearcats to Boonville where the same number of Panthers awaited them. The kickoff, scheduled for 5, was slightly delayed because the timekeeper couldn't be found, but Drake Mezzanato, a former Panther freshly sworn in as a County probation officer, gallantly filled in.
ERNIE PARDINI, a pro quality announcer, was at his annual post, the Panther cheerleaders were, as always, pretty and lively, and the game commenced on an achingly beautiful late summer afternoon between two evenly matched 8-man teams, with the Boonville boys supplemented by Miss Kenzie Zacapa, listed as a lineman (!).
COACH JOHN TOOHEY, a former Panther who went on to play football at the college level, has done a miraculous job keeping football alive in the Anderson Valley. He's managed to keep spirits up on his mostly inexperienced team, who absorbed their second loss but had a lot of fun en route.
A PLATOON of loggers was gnawing away at all those dead trees on the northwest hillside of the Ukiah Road as it levels out on the Ukiah side of the hill. I'm sure I'm not the only one who imagines the whole area going up in flames, the dead trees like giant candles.
THE WAY WE LIVE NOW. A Los Angeles bar owner slammed the city council for overlooking the crime threatening to take over the public areas of the vast city. To illustrate his beef Paul Scrivano sent a video to the city council of a street nut throwing a bag of shit at him when he asked the guy to leave the entrance to his bar. “It’s a true feeling of helplessness,” Scrivano said. “It’s not the end of civilization when someone… goes to the bathroom on the street. It’s the end of civilization when the government looks past that, and when the government says that’s okay. LAPD tells me they’re just unable to write tickets, write citations, make arrests for these levels of crime, so that’s what causes the end of civilization,” he concluded. The video? the Los Angeles City Council responded by requesting that Scrivano not send “unsolicited” and “inappropriate” content to them.
A READER WRITES: “I haven't seen one word about murdered journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, an American citizen, and a Christian for Christ's sake! You've got room for neocons like James Kunstler, assorted MAGA freaks in your on-line comments of the week, and yet Shireen slips under your radar? I realize this is all random, but…”
Ed reply: The murder of Shireen Abu Akleh by the Israelis was extensively covered everywhere else in all the left-lib media, from the NYT to Counterpunch. I don't think people read the ava for international news, not that we ignore it, but our focus is pretty much local, the big picture stuff of interest to us only when it comes with unique perspectives not generally available elsewhere — the LRB is better than all the left-lib pubs put together, as was Alexander Cockburn, who will always be sorely missed by us. Kunstler. Kunstler is the best writer by far on the other side, and he's very funny. I think it's intellectually healthy for us pwoggies to occasionally look up from our catechisms, don't you?
by Mark Scaramella
Measure B Hypocrisy & Dissembling
At their September 13 meeting the Supervisors approved a series of Grand Jury report responses, one of which was a response to the Grand Jury’s review of Measure B.
Reverting to the days when the Board didn’t just disagree with or ignore the Grand Jury, the Supes couldn’t resist insulting the Grand Jury before responding. Their response opened:
“The Board of Supervisors welcomes this opportunity to respond to the Grand Jury report titled ‘Measure B: Re-Examined.’ Current Grand Jury procedures state: ‘findings are the conclusions or judgements that logically flow from the verified facts.’ In that regard, the Board of Supervisors encourages the Grand Jury to focus on verified facts and avoid unsubstantiated opinions that tend to inflame instead of inform discussion of this critical issue.”
The Board’s response then proceeded to agree with almost every Grand Jury finding except a minor clarification about why the last century’s Psychiatric Health Facility was closed.
As we have pointed out before, most recently at the top of our list of Mendo’s Major Failures, Mendo hasn’t even tried to address non-reimbursable mental health and drug-addled residents as Measure B called for, choosing instead to overpay for the Whitmore Lane demolition and rebuild for more much than a new facility would cost.
The Grand Jury correctly found that “There has been no direct funding for Substance Abuse Treatment as recommended in the Measure B Ordinance and the Kemper Report. The GJ determined this to be a serious oversight. … The GJ and service providers are concerned that Substance Abuse Treatment programs will not receive adequate attention and funding under Measure B.”
The Grand Jury recommended: “The BOS fund substance abuse treatment programs as required by Measure B.”
The Supervisors agreed with the findings that there has been “no direct funding” of substance abuse treatment. However, they chose obfuscation and disingenuousness for their response to the Grand Jury Recommendation.
BOS Response: “This recommendation requires further analysis. Measure B funds have been provided indirectly for Substance Abuse Treatment through Respite Care, the Crisis Residential Treatment Center and other programs. The Board and Committee will consider additional funding for Substance Abuse Treatment programs in their future meetings.”
And they have the gall to tell the Grand Jury to stick to “verified facts”?
Pretending that business as usual constitutes “indirect” use of Measure B funds for Substance Abuse Treatment is absurd. And we can guarantee that there will be no “further analysis,” nor will the Board “consider additional funding for Substance Abuse Treatment programs in their future meetings.”
We have seen this kind of BS before. The pot tax advisory measure, Measure AJ, for example, said that a significant amount of the pot tax revenues were to go to “increased fire protection.” But the Board, at the underhanded suggestion of Supervisor Dan Gjerde, took the position that their business as usual spending on Calfire Dispatch and Coast Valley EMS (admin) constituted spending on “increased fire protection.” In fact, not one cent of the over $20 million of new pot tax money has gone to “increased fire protection” and if the Grand Jury ever points that out, you can be sure that they will be insulted again.
The Supervisors, and the Fifth District's arrogant Ted Williams is the most egregious, get away with this crap because nobody is paying attention, including the local fire agencies which have never pressed the Board for any of the pot tax money that the voters told the Board to fork over, choosing instead to back another Board promise that Measure P will finally — finally! — be honored. (Given their history, we are skeptical.)
We’d like to hope the Grand Jury revisits this unacceptable response next year. And maybe even looks at the millions and millions of dollars of Measure B money wasted on grotesquely overpriced buildings which should have gone to Substance Abuse Treatment. But…
Mendo’s Water Priorities
“Five Priority Water Projects for Mendocino County” was the title of last Wednesday’s meeting of the Board’s “Public Health, Safety, and Resources Committee” made up of Supervisors Glenn McGoiurty and John Haschak.
• Consolidation of the Upper Russian River Water Agency
• Winter ground water recharge in flood plain areas (in Ukiah)
• Delineating and Mapping the Ground Water Basins of Little Lake, Round and Long Valleys
• Increasing Surface Water Storage for the City of Ft. Bragg:
• Modernization of Mendocino City Wastewater Treatment Plant
* * *
Would it be unseemly of us to point out that three of these “projects” have absolutely nothing to do with actual water? Or that the “winter ground water recharge” idea is nothing but another subsidy for grape growers by diverting “winter flows” — i.e., rain — from the Russian River into another — albeit very large underground — vineyard pond? The fourth “project,” if it is to happen at all, will only happen if the City of Fort Bragg does it and it certainly won’t help the drought much. And if Anderson Valley’s experience is any guide, the “modernization” of the Mendocino City Wastewater Treatment Plant will take at least ten years — if they’re lucky.
Did their “priorities” include developing any new water storage facilities?
Did they address conservation at all?
Did they mention. Redwood Valley, perhaps the most water starved area of Mendocino County?
Are we to assume that there are other “priorities” after the “top five” that were considered? If so, what were they?
Is the word “pathetic” too strong as a summary of their water priorities?
Systems and processes usually keep things moving openly, transparently and properly. When we don’t have appropriate systems and processes, things can go astray quickly. This seems to be the case with the County finances. When the Board of Supervisors (4-1 with me as the dissenting vote) voted to consolidate the offices of Treasurer/Tax Collector and Auditor/Controller against the advice of the officeholders, there was very little in the way of information about the benefits of this consolidation. Now we see that the negative effects forecasted and overwhelming workflow placed on the shoulders of one elected official are daunting.
Chamise Cubbison was elected to the position of the newly formed Auditor/Controller/Treasurer/Tax Collector (ACTT). She is struggling to wrap up the auditor duties while taking on the added Treasurer/Tax Collector duties. Both Ms. Cubbison and former Treasurer/Tax Collector Shari Schapmire warned of this exact occurrence. The Board is frustrated that timely financial statements are not happening. The public is trying to figure out what is going on.
On Sept. 13, we had a BOS meeting to look at what the Board needed for reports and what Ms. Cubbison would need as far as support, staffing, and resources to make it happen. Instead of efficiencies and streamlining, we are seeing an increase in the ACTT’s salary by $25,000 due to the increased responsibilities, need for more staff and resources, and the consolidation of responsibilities and oversight in one person. Since this is what the Board decided, we need to provide the staffing and resources to make this work.
Some of the issues brought up will return to the Budget ad hoc committee, some will go over to Information Services, and the Executive Office will take over some responsibilities such as payroll. The County’s budget is a known entity. The County has money and reserves, but not having up to date knowledge of revenues and expenditures throughout the year makes it difficult to run the County government and negotiate in good faith. If we don’t have a clear idea on what our finances look like and what the projections are, then it limits our ability to sign ongoing contracts with the bargaining units.
We must do better for the people of Mendocino County and the staff that work as public servants.
MENDOCINO RECEIVES $2.2 MILLION FROM STATE FOR BOWER PARK IMPROVEMENTS
The County of Mendocino has been allocated $2.2 million from the State to address the critical needs of Mendocino County’s Bower Park located in Gualala. With this funding allocation, the County can move forward with improvements to the park in keeping with the Board of Supervisor’s adopted Parks Needs Assessment findings, with a focus on the safety issues in the first phase. Priority safety projects such as hazardous tree removal, fire and fuel mitigation, ADA improvements, and installing electricity through the park will be included in the first phase. As the project commences, the County will conduct community outreach to seek input on other types of improvements that may be of community interest for the park beyond those issues identified in the Needs Assessment.
The County would like to formally express its appreciation to Assemblymember Jim Wood, who facilitated the formal request to the State during a time when the County’s General Fund could not afford the improvements, and for his dedication to county needs. The County worked with his office on providing information about the needs and importance of the park for south coast residents.
“When I learned from a local resident that Bower Park had been closed because of safety issues and local residents would need to drive nearly an hour in any direction to the next closest park, I was pleased to work with the County to request this state budget allocation,” said Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg). “This park is an important place for the local community to come together and these funds will ensure that the community has an accessible and safe place for youth baseball and soccer, an environment that can continue to foster community involvement by providing social, meeting and recreational opportunities and a place to continue to hold traditional holiday events.”
“Bower Park is a critical facility for our south coast,” added Chair Ted Williams. “Without this timely allocation, it was unclear how we’d find the resources to address the long overdue maintenance. Our state partners came through for us in a big way.”
JAYNE THOMAS'S MEMORABLE BOOKS:
I’ve been reading since I was three, and one book that shocked my core was Dracula (Bram Stoker)! As a 17 year old freshman at Indiana University living in the Gothic dorm quadrangle, I was lent the book by Seniors, as per custom, when my roommate was gone for a weekend. Mine was a Dark and Stormy Autumn one, with tree branches creaking, paned casement windows banging, lightning, thunderous rain, and I spent all night devouring it in terror. So perfect! (It’s also a delicious reread.)
Later, I liked Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire (and the film, too, one of Tom Cruise’s few (to me) admirable roles) but am disgusted with other contemporary authors who humanize these classic demons.
- 100 Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Marqués). A rare novel that made me laugh out loud throughout.
- OK, so do P.G. Wodehouse’s books on Jeeves and Wooster (as does the brilliant PBS series with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie.)
- The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. (Carl Sagan)
- Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution. (Mona Eltahawy)
- The Case Against Israel. (Michael Neumann)
- 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus. (Charles C. Mann)
- Many Thousands Gone:The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America. (Ira Berlin)
- Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves. (Adam Hochschild)
- BAD or the Dumbing of America (Paul Fussell) (30+ years and it’s only gotten worse!)
- Anything by Dorothy Parker.
- The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got That Way. (Bill Bryson)
- Baseball and Lesser Sports. (Wilfrid Sheed). Baseball Haiku: The Best Haiku Ever Written about the Game.
- I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections. (Nora Ephron) (Hilarious and suggests I’ve no doubt forgotten volumes (!) that belong in this list.)
CATCH OF THE DAY, September 24, 2022
TERESA BAZE, Willits. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun.
AGUSTIN CABRERA-GODINEZ, Vista/Ukiah. DUI.
PATRICK DENNIS, Covelo. Domestic battery.
SUMALEE FOLGER, Ukiah. Vandalism, resisting. (Frequent Flyer)
FOX HOAGLIN, Covelo. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun.
ISAIAH SALA, Hayward/Ukiah. DUI.
DIANE ZACCARIA, Ukiah. Disobeying court order.
I’m certain that Terry Yoas’s proposal to have a ready fleet of firefighting aircraft touched the nerves of many who, like me, are living each day fearing another devastating wildfire. I picture an airfield with dozens of tankers and choppers ready for takeoff, with corresponding air traffic control prepared to suspend regular traffic and immediately launch the squadron to surround and suppress a fire. It’s better to be prepared and immediately bombard a fire before it grows out of control. I will advocate for such a program — as will countless others. It will save lives and homes.
DROUGHT-WRACKED CALIFORNIA ALLOWS OIL COMPANIES TO USE HIGH-QUALITY WATER
Last month, with California in the grips of a megadrought, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a plan centered on “the acute need to conserve water” in the face of a drier, hotter future caused by climate change. The plan outlines actions to “transform water management” and calls on California residents to step up and do their part to conserve water. Yet the plan does nothing to limit use of California’s dwindling water supplies by one of the primary drivers of climate change: the oil and gas industry.…
SAME HERE IN MENDO: ‘NON-PROFIT’ HOSPITAL ‘REVS UP’ THEIR REVENUE
by Jessica Silver-Greenberg & Katie Thomas
In 2018, senior executives at one of the country’s largest nonprofit hospital chains, Providence, were frustrated. They were spending hundreds of millions of dollars providing free health care to patients. It was eating into their bottom line.
The executives, led by Providence’s chief financial officer at the time, devised a solution: a program called Rev-Up.
Rev-Up provided Providence’s employees with a detailed playbook for wringing money out of patients — even those who were supposed to receive free care because of their low incomes, a New York Times investigation found.
In training materials obtained by the Times, members of the hospital staff were instructed how to approach patients and pressure them to pay.
“Ask every patient, every time,” the materials said. Instead of using “weak” phrases — like “Would you mind paying?” — employees were told to ask how patients wanted to pay. Soliciting money “is part of your role. It’s not an option.”
If patients did not pay, Providence sent debt collectors to pursue them.
More than half the nation’s roughly 5,000 hospitals are nonprofits like Providence. They enjoy lucrative tax exemptions; Providence avoids more than $1 billion a year in taxes. In exchange, the IRS requires them to provide services, such as free care for the poor, that benefit the communities in which they operate.
But in recent decades, many of the hospitals have become virtually indistinguishable from for-profit companies, adopting an unrelenting focus on the bottom line and straying from their traditional charitable missions.
As Providence illustrates, some hospital systems have not only reduced their emphasis on providing free care to the poor but also developed elaborate systems to convert needy patients into sources of revenue. The result, in the case of Providence, is that thousands of poor patients were saddled with debts that they never should have owed.
Founded by nuns in the 1850s, Providence says its mission is to be “steadfast in serving all, especially those who are poor and vulnerable.” Today, based in Renton, Washington, Providence is one of the largest nonprofit health systems in the country, with 51 hospitals and more than 900 clinics. Its revenue last year exceeded $27 billion.
Providence is sitting on $10 billion that it invests, Wall Street-style, alongside top private equity firms. It even runs its own venture capital fund.
In 2018, before the Rev-Up program kicked in, Providence spent 1.24% of its expenses on charity care, a standard way of measuring how much free care hospitals provide. That was below the average of 2% for nonprofit hospitals nationwide, according to an analysis of hospital financial records by Ge Bai, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
By last year, Providence’s spending on charity care had fallen below 1% of its expenses.
The Affordable Care Act requires nonprofit hospitals to make their financial assistance policies public, such as by posting them in hospital waiting rooms. But the federal law does not dictate who is eligible for free care.
Ten states, however, have adopted their own laws that specify which patients, based on their income and family size, qualify for free or discounted care. Among them is Washington, where Providence is based. All hospitals in the state must provide free care for anyone who makes under 300% of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that threshold is $83,250 a year.
In February, Bob Ferguson, the state’s attorney general, accused Providence of violating state law, in part by using debt collectors to pursue more than 55,000 patient accounts. The suit alleged that Providence wrongly claimed those patients owed a total of more than $73 million.
Providence, which is fighting the lawsuit, has said it will stop using debt collectors to pursue money from low-income patients who should qualify for free care in Washington.
But the problems extend beyond Washington. In interviews, patients in California and Oregon who qualified for free care said they had been charged thousands of dollars and then harassed by collection agents. Many saw their credit scores ruined. Others had to cut back on groceries to pay what Providence claimed they owed. In both states, nonprofit hospitals are required by law to provide low-income patients with free or discounted care.
Gregory Hoffman, Providence’s chief financial officer, said that the Times’ findings about the hospital system’s treatment of poor patients “are very concerning and have our attention.” He said Providence wanted “to get things right, on behalf of our communities and on behalf of our patients,” though he acknowledged that the Rev-Up program initially had “some hiccups,” including sending Medicaid patients to debt collectors.
Melissa Tizon, a spokesperson for Providence, said the health system stopped doing that in December, although that was two years after an executive raised internal alarms about the practice. Providence has also instructed the debt collection firms it works with to not use “any aggressive tactics such as garnishing wages or reporting delinquent accounts to credit agencies,” she said.
Tizon said Providence was the largest provider of charity care in Washington. While the hospital system has been providing less of that care in recent years, she said, Providence has been treating more patients on Medicaid, the federal-state insurance program for poor people.
“Our practices comply with and in many instances exceed state requirements,” she said.
‘Don’t accept the first no.’
When the federal government created Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s, millions more people suddenly had insurance that covered medical expenses.
The IRS began allowing hospitals to justify their tax exemptions by providing a broader range of loosely defined benefits to their communities beyond treating patients for free. Some hospitals took advantage of the new leeway, arguing that things like employees’ salaries counted toward the IRS requirement.
Top government officials warned that hospitals were abusing their privileged status as nonprofits.
“Some tax-exempt health care providers may not differ markedly from for-profit providers in their operations, their attention to the benefit of the community or their levels of charity care,” IRS commissioner Mark W. Everson wrote to the Senate in 2005.
Some hospital executives have embraced the comparison to for-profit companies. Dr. Rod Hochman, Providence’s CEO, told an industry publication in 2021 that “‘nonprofit health care’ is a misnomer.”
“It is tax-exempt health care,” he said. “It still makes profits.”
Since Hochman took over in 2013, Providence has become a financial powerhouse. Last year, it earned $1.2 billion in profits through investments. (So far this year, Providence has lost money.) In 2019, the latest year available, Providence received roughly $1.2 billion in federal, state and local tax breaks, according to the Lown Institute, a think tank that studies health care.
The greater the hospital system’s profits, the more money it could pump into expanding. In addition, the greater its cash reserves, the stronger its credit rating. A pristine rating allowed Providence to inexpensively borrow money, which it could then funnel into further growth.
Over the past decade, Providence has opened or acquired 18 hospitals. Hochman earned $10 million in 2020.
Even before the Rev-Up program, Providence was collecting money from poor patients, sometimes in violation of state laws, according to five current and former executives and a review of patient complaints filed with regulators.
Harriet Haffner-Ratliffe, 20, gave birth to twins at a Providence hospital in Olympia, Washington, in 2017. She was eligible under state law for charity care. Providence did not inform her. Instead, it billed her almost $2,300. The hospital put her on a roughly $100-a-month payment plan.
It was more than Haffner-Ratliffe, who was unemployed, could afford. When she fell behind on the payments, Providence dispatched a debt collector to pursue her.
For people already on the financial brink, debt collection companies can push them over the edge. The companies often inform credit-rating firms about patients’ debts, which can torpedo their credit scores. That, in turn, can make it much harder and more expensive to buy or rent a car or home or to borrow money. Haffner-Ratliffe’s ordeal chopped her credit score by about 200 points. For years, she couldn’t get a credit card.
In 2018, Providence was looking for ways to save money. It had recently merged with another nonprofit hospital system, and integrating the two was expensive.
Providence turned to the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. The firm’s assignment was to maximize the money that Providence collected from its patients, the five current and former executives said. In essence, the hospital system wanted to apply the tactics it had used with Haffner-Ratliffe to even more patients.
McKinsey’s solution was Rev-Up, whose name was an apparent reference to the goal of accelerating revenue growth.
Training materials instructed administrative staff to tell patients — no matter how poor — that “payment is expected,” according to documents included in Washington’s lawsuit and training materials obtained by the Times. Six current and former hospital employees said in interviews that they had been told not to mention the financial aid that states like Washington required Providence to provide.
One training document, titled “Don’t accept the first No,” led staff through a series of questions to ask patients. The first was “How would you like to pay that today?” If that did not work, employees were told to ask for half the balance. Failing that, staff could offer to set up a payment plan. Only as a last resort, the documents explained, should workers tell patients that they may be eligible for financial assistance.
Another training document explained what to do if patients expressed surprise that a charitable hospital was pressuring them to pay. The suggested response: “We are a nonprofit. However, we want to inform our patients of their balances as soon as possible and help the hospital invest in patient care by reducing billing costs.”
Tizon, the spokesperson for Providence, said the intent of Rev-Up was “not to target or pressure those in financial distress.” Instead, she said, “it aimed to provide patients with greater pricing transparency.”
“We recognize the tone of the training materials developed by McKinsey was not consistent with our values,” she said, adding that Providence modified the materials “to ensure we are communicating with each patient with compassion and respect.”
The Rev-Up program alarmed some Providence employees.
Taylor Davison, who worked in the emergency department of a Providence hospital in Santa Rosa, California, until last year, said Providence’s tactics had struck her as predatory. She was told to approach patients as soon as doctors had finished examining them. She was required to document in the patients’ charts that she had repeatedly pushed for payments.
Employees were urged to collect any amount, no matter how small, she said. “Here are people coming in at the worst moment of their lives, and I’m asking them to empty their wallets,” Davison said.
Providence paid McKinsey at least $45 million in 2019 for its assistance, tax filings show.
(New York Times)
MR. TOAD'S WILD RIDE
”The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” — Mary Oliver
Here's the recording of last night's (2022-09-23) Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show on 107.7fm KNYO-LP Fort Bragg (CA): https://tinyurl.com/KNYO-MOTA-0507
Thanks to Hank Sims for all kinds of tech help, as well as for his fine news site: https://LostCoastOutpost.com
Thanks to the Anderson Valley Advertiser, which provided almost an hour of that 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 consider wee bravely struggling KNYO itself. Long may it wave. Even longer if you were to help out via the big red donation heart. For example KNYO needs to replace an important piece of equipment soon that probably will cost about $400. But a small radio station is one of the very few institutions where you can solve any problem by throwing a little money at it. https://KNYO.org
Here's a link to my dream journal project that I resurrected on Medium a couple of years ago and have been sporadically keeping up. Sometime, maybe Sunday or so, I'll post another batch of dreams, but there's plenty there new to you if you haven't been for awhile.* https://MarcoMcClean.Medium.com
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:
The shoebill. It sounds like a military drum tattoo. Or a small Suzuki motorbike. Or using a electric jigsaw on metal that's not clamped down properly. But the way it looks at you, tch, I feel like that could be me. I mean, I might look like this to other people. At public events I have had the experience of being ordered to smile, so I have a sense of what women might feel like when that happens to them. It doesn't make you want to smile; at that point you'd sooner strangle the person. With your great big yellow-gray webbed hand-feet, and that look in your eye. And just shake them around like a sock full of bloody pennies, shooka-shooka-shooka, and slam them on the deck like the Hulk did to Loki in /The Avengers/. Of course you wouldn't actually do that, because you couldn't. This is why it's a bad idea for people to have a gun. Somebody pisses them off and all they have to do is wiggle their finger and they've killed someone who said, "Smile, honey. C'mon, give us a smile."
A whole 1960s teevee series of folk music, when that was a big deal. Walk right in, sit right down, Daddy, let your mind roll on.
And water music.
*Email me your work on any subject, it doesn't have to be a dream, and I'll read it on the radio next Friday night.
— Marco McClean, email@example.com, https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com
THIRTY-FIVE SILVER DOLLARS
by Stephen Elliot
One Saturday night in October 2014 Justin ran down the stairs of my recently deceased mother’s farmhouse calling “Bingo!” Oliver had earlier hauled a grimy sky-blue suitcase from far under the eaves as he and Justin helped Marjorie and me wrap up five months of moving and cataloging property, a family accumulation of over sixty years. Now Justin had pried the suitcase open and found a trove of silver: porringers, spoons, salt cellars, and silver coinage, including thirty-five carefully wrapped silver dollars.
All day we had dragged trunks and boxes, first from the shed chamber and then from under the eaves. Family letters from as far back as the 1890’s, diaries, school papers, early drafts of my father’s poetry – it had been a productive day. Our kids, caught in the spirit of the hunt, were now making free use of their pry bars. But I’m ahead of my story.
Let me start on a warm evening in May of 1963. I was burning an old pile of brush in the swamp west of the house, the fire helped along by a rotted tire I’d suctioned out of the mud. I stared into the red flames and black smoke and thought how glad I was that I was about to miss my graduation from St. Johnsbury Junior High. I could live without the ceremonies at Fuller Hall and the girls, pretty in their white gloves, because tomorrow morning I was jumping a bus, bound for Laramie, Wyoming.
My sister Sandy had married Bud in the summer of ’62 and they were now geology students at the University of Wyoming. Sandy was a junior, having made the unusual transfer from Vassar to Wyoming, and Bud, a graduate student, was going to be doing field work in the Sierra Madres, about eighty miles west of Laramie. During that 8th grade year I’d lobbied for a job as a field assistant and now the job was mine. I’d get room (a tent in the mountains) and board (mostly cooked over campfires), and would pack rock samples as we mapped and described the geology of the Sierra Madres.
My longest trips from home had been a couple of trips to Poughkeepsie, N.Y. to take Sandy to and from Vassar. I’d never even been to Boston. I hopped a Vermont Transit on Railroad Street near the Portland Street Bridge, St. Johnsbury’s eternal bus stop. My spirits were soaring through Rutland, Bennington, and points west. Unease struck in Albany, N.Y. The world seemed bigger. Comfort came from the red sun sinking before the Greyhound’s windshield, telling me we were headed in the right general direction. The next day I saw the grinning logo of the Cleveland Indians as we sailed by Municipal Stadium. Then Chicago: a missed transfer, lost luggage, a seven hour wait, a tentative venture onto the downtown streets, confusion, panic, near meltdown, reassurance and rescue by a kind woman randomly chosen in some office.
I landed in Laramie the next night and my navy blue duffel bag, last seen in Albany, straggled in a day later. Early that first morning Sandy, Bud and I rolled across Laramie Basin, a thirty-mile-wide expanse of dry plain, and crawled up Jelm Mountain in their little VW bug. We arranged a rock fireplace on that knobby peak and broiled huge sirloin steaks, very rare, and ate them with our hands, growling like wolves, no silverware allowed. All good: sunshine, steak, sagebrush, and found arrowheads.
While Bud and I settled into our work in the Sierra Madres, Sandy attended a University of Wyoming “Science Camp” in the lovely Snowy Range. The Science Camp hosted about a hundred geology students from all over the country. The students lived in little cabins scattered among the spruce trees. Sandy’s roommate was Rose Ann Leidy, a pretty Philadelphia girl and Smith College student.
Bud and I were first camped on the eastern side of the Sierra Madres, overlooking the Encampment River Canyon. Here in the foothills were prickly pears, scampering antelopes, and nighthawks wheeling and buzzing overhead. At the base of the mountains was a sleepy little cow-town called Encampment, originally part of the “Eight Hamlets of the Grand Encampment” which thrived during a copper boom from 1898 to 1908. Now, except for Encampment and nearby Riverside, the hamlets were all ghost towns scattered up through the Sierra Madres, nothing left but deep, scary mine shafts, old timbers, a few slumped cabins, and sad little cemeteries, many of the graves marked only with rough quartzite boulders. When we got into the high country around the Continental Divide, the Sierra Madres showed a different face: lush alpine meadows, snow fields, crystal lakes, and herds of elk clattering through the woods.
About once a week Bud and I would drop into Encampment. The main block was an old brick building, one corner of which was occupied by a soda fountain and magazine store. We’d order “Green Rivers”, floats made with lime soda pop and vanilla ice cream. I’d grab a magazine featuring lurid tales from the Old West. Otherwise we walked, climbed, sweat, mapped, collected rock samples, and stared at shimmering crystals of azurite.
On weekends we’d meet Sandy and Rose Ann in the Snowy Range and then head back to the apartment in Laramie, a tiny cottage in the leafy backyard of a colorful old Laramie lawyer. Rose Ann would stay with us on weekends and the little cottage became a happy social center with talk about everything from geology to civil rights demonstrations to how they danced the twist at the University of Tennessee. The hi-fi was spinning with everything from Mozart’s French Horn Concertos to Ewan MacColl’s Scots Ballads to the songs of Cisco Houston.
Wyoming Statehood day is July 10th and Laramie celebrates without stint. Jubilee Days features a rodeo and a week’s party. One night I found myself in downtown Laramie with Sandy, Bud, Rose Ann, and four or five other geology people. A cowboy band played away on the back of a flatbed truck. The streets were full of dancers and the gutters deep with beer cans. We went into a place called The Buffalo Bar. The beauty and genius of the bar’s buffalo head sign was that not only did the fearsome eyes blink red, but also its nostrils blinked orange! I felt good, sitting at a table in the Buffalo Bar, more or less holding my own in conversation, and waited for someone to bring me a beer. Then a couple of big cowboys walked by and one of them said, in a voice way too loud, “Jesus Christ! That kid ain’t old enough to leave his front yard!” Management could not but respond and there I was, ejected and disconsolate, sitting on the curb among the empty beer cans.
Then Rose Ann appeared at my side like an angel, with two cans of beer and a church key – this was before the day of pop-top cans – and asked me to dance. We cracked the beers, drank, laughed, talked, and danced. I was already in love with Rose Ann, a sweet, funny, strong, statuesque girl with brown eyes and thick brown hair that she sometimes pinned up and sometimes let fall to her butt –- now I adored her. The others soon joined us, and a guy tapped my shoulder to cut in. Rose Ann didn’t lack for dance partners, but I convinced myself that this was our night.
Science Camp ended and Rose Ann went off travelling in the West. A few weeks later I got a post card with a picture of the Snowy Range signed, “Love, Rose Ann”. Love.
Sandy joined Bud and me in a new camp, now on the western side of the Sierra Madres. We were camped across a meadow from a Basque sheepherder in his little covered wagon. With Sandy in camp our cuisine improved dramatically. One afternoon Sandy and I were looking at rocks above a rapid stream and found a nice patch of raspberries. We said, “To hell with rocks! To hell with mapping!” and picked a good quart. Over a Coleman stove Sandy produced a magnificent blancmange from scratch. We served the blancmange (agreeing that to call it “vanilla pudding” would be obscene) with raspberry topping. She also made a huge batch of dough with which we’d cook smoking hot English muffins in a heavy iron skillet over coals. Breakfasts were now prolonged.
By late August occasional afternoon cloudbursts became more persistent rains. One day we found ourselves ducking down into the woods as lightening cracked all along the ridge we were trying to map. The rain pounded down. Bud said, “We’re done! Let’s go to Vermont.” We cheered.
When we got back to Laramie Bud decided to give me a cash bonus in silver. In those years you could walk into any bank out west get silver dollars, pretty much at will. I was soon standing outside a Laramie bank admiring a kerchief full of silver dollars gleaming in the sun.
On our way back to Vermont we stopped in the little town of Orchard, Nebraska where Mike Voorhies, a graduate student at Wyoming, had his family home and had discovered a quarry of Pliocene mammal bones, including three-toed horses, camels, elephants, and many little antelopes. The Voorhies family was legendary for its hospitality and the quarry was a marvel.
Lyndon Institute and its joys and challenges awaited me in September. I was to return to the West many times. Over the next four years I did more work for Bud, then dug bones for Mike Voorhies in Nebraska for two summers, and spent the “Summer of Love”, 1967, looking for mammal bones in Wyoming, Montana, and British Columbia with a crew from Carnegie Museum.
In April 1968 I was home for spring vacation. Martin Luther King had just been assassinated and cities were in flames across the country. I had joined the New England Draft Resistance, declined a student deferment, refused induction, and was soon headed to prison. I was about to drop out of Harvard and hitchhike from St. Johnsbury to Portland, Oregon to work in Eugene McCarthy’s presidential campaign. The moment clearly called for a “prayer meeting” with my high school friends, and a prayer meeting clearly called for a beer run to Lyndonville Fruit. Dead broke, I figured, what the hell, I’ll pay in silver dollars. I opened a metal box upstairs where I’d stashed the thirty-five silver dollars, along with Rose Ann’s church key. With a pang I read on the back of the opener, “Hamm’s. From the Land of Sky Blue Waters” and remembered that happy night in Laramie. Just then my father, who’d sniffed out the situation, walked in. He said, “No, no. Don’t spend the silver dollars. I’ll give you cash for them.” That was fine with me. I took the paper, we scored the beer, had our party, and life went on.
In 1990 my father died after a fall from a tree. My brother and I thoroughly went through his stuff, but, oddly, didn’t find the silver dollars. We were sure he wouldn’t have sold them. We asked my mother about it. In the months after my father died she had had some carpenters do renovations upstairs. My mother said that one day one of them had “kind of a silly smirk” on his face. She speculated that maybe he’d found the silver dollars behind a wall and snatched them. As years passed and the silver dollars never turned up, my mother’s theory took on weight and became a curious footnote in family lore.
Then, last fall, Oliver and Justin found the silver. Sorry, carpenter! You’re totally innocent. Lesson: a “silly smirk” never was proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
I’m still looking for Rose Ann’s church key -- From the Land of Sky Blue Waters.
Reprinted courtesy of The Green Mountain Trading Post, St. Johnsbury, Vermont.
In memory of Bud Ebbett, long time geology teacher at Lyndon State College, who died on March 12, 2022 at the age of 91.
WIKILEAKS DOCS SHOW TOP HOLLYWOOD PRODUCERS WORKING WITH ISRAEL TO DEFEND ITS WAR CRIMES
As Israel was launching a deadly assault on Gaza, killing thousands of civilians and displacing more than 100,000 people, many of America’s top TV, music and film producers were organizing to protect the apartheid state’s reputation from widespread international condemnation.…
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
I hate to say this, but I really do feel that these [stalker] acts against women by men are really not taken seriously a lot of the time. Even rape. Let's hope it doesn't get to this point with this creep. I think any man would be surprised to know how vulnerable most women feel, how we always feel a need to look behind our backs. This is something that I and most women I know - my sisters, friends, elders, nieces - Have ingrained in us, not even from our mothers warning us, but from our own experiences. How Judge Russell Roeca does not consider this is, to me, misogynistic, the criminal elements aside. [Roeca is a SF judge appointed by Newsom] When I used to bartend, this customer used to sit at the bar, stare me down, then when I left sometimes at 2-3am, he would be sitting at the bus stop in front waiting for me, telling me I was his future wife and that we were going to have a family, and that I'd eventually succumb to him. I was 25. I told him repeatedly that he was a jerk, to fuck off, that I thought he was disgusting. I told him off most every night after this occurred regularly. My male colleagues finally started to physically threaten him, and he eventually never showed up again. This was the 90's and the world was less scary.
DWIGHT GARNER REVIEWS JARED KUSHNER'S BOOK in the NY Times:
The United States Secret Service isn’t known for its sense of humor, but when it gave Jared Kushner the code name “mechanic,” was someone betting that he’d call his memoir “Breaking History”?
It’s a title that, in its thoroughgoing lack of self-awareness, matches this book’s contents. Kushner writes as if he believes foreign dignitaries (and less-than dignitaries) prized him in the White House because he was the fresh ideas guy, the starting point guard, the dimpled go-getter.
He betrays little cognizance that he was in demand because, as a landslide of other reporting has demonstrated, he was in over his head, unable to curb his avarice, a cocky young real estate heir who happened to unwrap a lot of Big Macs beside his father-in-law, the erratic and misinformed and similarly mercenary leader of the free world. Jared was a soft touch.
“Breaking History” is an earnest and soulless — Kushner looks like a mannequin, and he writes like one — and peculiarly selective appraisal of Donald J. Trump’s term in office.
Kushner almost entirely ignores the chaos, the alienation of allies, the breaking of laws and norms, the flirtations with dictators, the comprehensive loss of America’s moral leadership, and so on, ad infinitum, to speak about his boyish tinkering (the “mechanic”) with issues he was interested in....
LAURA MILLER in Slate:
“…As Trump administration memoirs go—and I’ve read a ton of them—this one is pretty dull, with dashes of the obligatory score-settling and self-justification but precious little color.”
Kushner gets his digs in when covering such fallen rivals as Steve Bannon, John Kelly, and Rex Tillerson (who understandably complained that there should only be one secretary of state).
But he has no eye for character or flair for dish, and his whole schtick was that when the going got crazy, he was off in Dubai, or sucking up to Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi prince who according to the CIA ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi (and this spring invested $2 billion in Kushner’s fledgling private equity firm, a deal currently under investigation by the House Oversight Committee).
Kushner’s dilemma is the same as Trump’s. Both are sons of rich, unprincipled self-made men and are desperate to prove what can never be proven: that they, too, would have made successes of themselves even without Daddy’s help.
Kushner’s marriage to Ivanka Trump compounded his problem. Obviously, he would never have had a shot at Mideast diplomacy and negotiating trade agreements if he hadn’t been Trump’s son-in-law. He was entirely unqualified to do any of it…
“I'm writing this book because we're all going to die — In the loneliness of my life, my father dead, my brother dead, my mother far away, my sister and my wife far away, nothing here but my own tragic hands that once were guarded by a world, a sweet attention, that now are left to guide and disappear their own way into the common dark of all our death, sleeping in my raw bed, alone and stupid…”
— Jack Kerouac
BEFORE PARVUS, I had distanced myself from the sensual man, the careerist, the lover of power and possessions, the drinker and womanizer. Faint traces of idealism, childish superstitutions perhaps, persuaded me that only a comrade who was purged of all vanities, luxuries, self-indulgence and individual ambition could be of service to the cause. Now I see, what I already realized without admitting it, that greed and genius, egoism and courage, determination and frivolity, can co-exist. Perhaps more often, do so than not. Revolutions are not made by angels.
— Lenin, as channeled by Alan Brien
‘JOE BIDEN’S LAST STAND’
by James Kunstler
Historians of the future, grilling spatchcocked plovers over their campfires, will need not ponder for even a New York minute who started World War Three in the rockin’ 2020s. They will point straight to the waxy, furtive, larval figure known as “Joe Biden,” by then judged a moral weevil of such epic low degree that he became an embarrassment to all the other sewer-dwelling denizens of the dank DC underworld, including the roaches, the rats, the humble shipworms eating through sunk oaken foundations of buildings long forgotten, the writhing maggots rinsed from a thousand restaurant dumpsters, the slithering hellgrammites, millipedes, silverfish, pillbugs, termites, dung-beetles, woodlice, and, not least, the scaly lawyers spawned out of the infestation beneath K Street called Perkins Coie LLP. Even these would loathe and disdain the thing that came into this world as “Joe Biden.”
Let us agree that the place called Ukraine was never any of America’s business. For centuries we ignored it, through all the colorful cavalry charges to-and-fro of Turks and Tatars, the reign of the dashing Zaporozhian Cossacks, the cruel abuses of Stalin, then Hitler, and the dull, gray Khrushchev-to-Yeltsin years. But then, having destroyed Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia and sundry other places all on a great hegemonic lark, the professional warmongers of our land and their catamites in Washington made Ukraine their next special project. They engineered the 2014 coup in Kiev that ousted the elected president, Mr. Yanyukovich, to set up a giant grifting parlor and international money-laundromat. The other strategic aim was to prepare Ukraine for NATO membership, which would have made it, in effect, a forward missile base right up against Russia’s border. Because, well, Russia, Russia, Russia!
An early beneficiary of these arrangements, you might recall, was one Hunter Biden, the drug-addicted, sex-obsessed, no-account son of Barack Obama’s no-account vice-president then known simply as Joe Biden sans quote-marks — because in 2014, he was a closer approximation of a real person than is sadly now the case. In fact, he was known as “The Big Guy” among Hunter’s business coterie (though listed as “Pedo Peter” on Hunter’s speed-dial). After the 2014 coup, and for years beyond, Hunter pulled a steady revenue stream out of Ukraine’s Burisma Holdings, a natgas distributor (among other things), serving as a know-nothing, no-show board member. When this monkey business came to the attention of President Trump, and he made a telephone inquiry about it, he was instantly beset by swarms of DC swamp vermin hoisting writs of impeachment.
Fast forward through the past eight years and you have Kiev’s persecution of the Russian-speaking Donbas provinces, the constant shelling and harassment by Banderite Nazis. Between that and the ever more strident urgings for Ukraine to join NATO, President Putin of Russia, Russia, Russia apparently had enough. In February of this year, he started the Special Military Operation to put an end to these hostilities. By April, when whole battalions of Ukrainian Nazis had been exterminated, a call to peace talks was issued by Mr. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister. This was shot-down without ceremony by “Joe Biden” (that is, by the junta behind him). The genius strategists in Foggy Bottom aimed to “weaken” Russia. To what end? (you might ask). Okay: Reasons….
Hence, many hard-fought battles on-the-ground later, Ukraine has lost roughly 70,000 troops killed to Russia’s roughly 6,000 KIA. The USA pours $10-billion-a-month into this venture, including missiles aplenty and other ordnance, in a stupid effort to prolong the conflict and bankrupt our own land. Thus, Mr. Putin has decided to stop pussyfooting around Ukraine, and declared an upgrade in Russia’s effort to put a conclusive end to these shenanigans. He set this forth clearly in a sober speech Wednesday, which included a reminder to the geniuses in the White House basement game room that Russia is a nuclear power.
“Joe Biden” (looking like the ghost of Konstantin Chernenko) answered in a speech to the UN General Assembly the next day, a maundering recitation of sanctimonious bluster, larded with climate hysteria to alarm and bamboozle the UN’s scores of Third World delegates, with not a word about any possible peace talks — because peaceful resolution of the conflict is the last thing that our government wants. It wants war, meaning we citizens of this land will get it, good and hard, if the puppeteers working “Joe Biden’s” mouth get their way. Prepare to live in an ashtray.
From our side, it may just add up — as I said — to plain bluster. The “Joe Biden” regime has already done enough to hurtle the USA and the rest of Western Civ into a new dark age. The nations of the EU have no idea how they will conduct economic activity without the cheap Russian natgas they used to depend on. They are about to get a harsh lesson on the realistic limits of “green energy” they’ve been prattling about for years. So far, it doesn’t look good for them. A few more months of this and the populace from Riga to Lisbon will be stringing up whole parliaments from the boulevard light standards.
Even if “Joe Biden” doesn’t go for the ashtray option, consider the $350-trillion in leveraged financial derivatives orbiting high above the scene like a numberless fleet of death stars primed to blow at the next interest rate uptick. The Euroland stock markets are already tanking hard as I write at 8:30 EDT today. US futures indicate a week-ending bloodbath on Wall Street. This is nature’s way of registering its no-confidence vote in “Joe Biden’s” management of our affairs. All this is on top of the sucking chest wound that Washington DC has become — the necrotic corruption of every agency, the gathering “vaccine” holocaust, the indecent firehose of lies from high places, the Gestapo sleaze of the DOJ/FBI nexus, and the astounding new twists in officially-promoted sexual degeneracy revealed in our schools and hospitals.
Not to put too fine a point on it: the shit has already hit the fan. We are where we were going. If you truly believe those 2020 national election results, then this is what you voted for, America. Feeling any buyer’s remorse yet? Got the feeling that something must be done? Okay then, what?
THE RETURN OF FASCISM
As in the 1930s, a bankrupt liberalism, grotesque social inequality and declining living standards are empowering fascist movements in Europe and the U.S.
by Chris Hedges
Energy and food bills are soaring. Under the onslaught of inflation and prolonged wage stagnation, wages are in free fall. Billions of dollars are diverted by Western nations at a time of economic crisis and staggering income inequality to fund a proxy war in Ukraine. The liberal class, terrified by the rise of neo-fascism and demagogues such as Donald Trump, have thrown in their lot with discredited and reviled establishment politicians who slavishly do the bidding of the war industry, oligarchs and corporations.
The bankruptcy of the liberal class means that those who decry the folly of permanent war and NATO expansion, mercenary trade deals, exploitation of workers by globalization, austerity and neoliberalism come increasingly from the far-right. This right-wing rage, dressed up in the United States as Christian fascism, has already made huge gains in Hungary, Poland, Sweden, Italy, Bulgaria and France and may take power in the Czech Republic, where inflation and rising energy costs have seen the number of Czechs falling below the poverty line double.
By next spring, following a punishing winter of rolling blackouts and months when families struggle to pay for food and heat, what is left of our anemic western democracy could be largely extinguished.
Extremism is the political cost of pronounced social inequality and political stagnation. Demagogues, who promise moral and economic renewal, vengeance against phantom enemies and a return to lost glory, rise out of the morass. Hatred and violence, already at the boiling point, are legitimized. A reviled ruling class, and the supposed civility and democratic norms it espouses, are ridiculed.
It is not, as the philosopher Gabriel Rockhill points out, as if fascism ever went away. “The U.S. did not defeat fascism in WWII,” he writes, “it discretely internationalized it.” After World War II the U.S., U.K. and other Western governments collaborated with hundreds of former Nazis and Japanese war criminals, who they integrated into western intelligence services, as well as fascist regimes such as those in Spain and Portugal. They supported right-wing anti-communist forces in Greece during its civil war in 1946 to 1949, and then backed a right-wing military coup in 1967. NATO also had a secret policy of operating fascist terrorist groups. Operation Gladio, as the BBC detailed in a now-forgotten investigative series, created “secret armies,” networks of illegal stay-behind soldiers, who would remain behind enemy lines if the Soviet Union made a military move into Europe. In actuality, the “secret armies” carried-out assassinations, bombings, massacres and false flag terror attacks against leftists, trade unionists and others throughout Europe.
See my interview with Stephen Kinzer about the post-war activities of the CIA, including its recruitment of Nazi and Japanese war criminals and its creation of black sites where former Nazis were hired to interrogate, torture and murder suspected leftists, labor leaders and communists, detailed in his book Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control, here.
Fascism, which has always been with us, is again ascendant. The far-right politician Giorgia Meloni is expected to become Italy’s first female prime minister after elections on Sunday. In a coalition with two other far-right parties, Meloni is forecast to win more than 60 percent of the seats in Parliament, though the left-leaning 5-Star Movement may put a dent in those expectations.
Meloni got her start in politics as a 15-year-old activist for the youth wing of the Italian Social Movement, founded after the World War II by supporters of Benito Mussolini. She calls EU bureaucrats agents of “nihilistic global elites driven by international finance.” She peddles the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory that non-white immigrants are being permitted to enter Western nations as part of a plot to undermine or “replace” the political power and culture of white people. She has called on the Italian navy to turn back boats with immigrants, which the far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini did in 2018. Her Fratelli d’Italia, Brothers of Italy, party is a close ally of Hungary’s President, Viktor Orban. A European Parliament resolution recently declared that Hungary can no longer be defined as a democracy.
Meloni and Orban are not alone. Sweden Democrats, which took over 20 percent of the vote in Sweden’s general election last week to become the country’s second largest political party, was formed in 1988 from a neo-Nazi group called B.S.S., or Keep Sweden Swedish. It has deep fascist roots. Of the party’s 30 founders, 18 had Nazi affiliations, including several who served in the Waffen SS, according to Tony Gustaffson a historian and former Sweden Democrat member. France’s Marine Le Pen took over 41 percent of the vote in April against Emmanuel Macron. In Spain, the hard-right Vox party is the third largest party in Spain's Parliament. The far-right German AfD or Alternative for Germany party took over 12 percent in federal elections in 2017, making it the third largest party, though it lost a couple percentage points in the 2021 elections. The U.S. has its own version of fascism embodied in a Republican party that coalesces in cult-like fashion around Donald Trump, embraces the magical thinking, misogyny, homophobia and white supremacy of the Christian Right and actively subverts the election process.
Economic collapse was indispensable to the Nazis’ rise to power. In the 1928 elections in Germany, the Nazi party received less than 3 percent of the vote. Then came the global financial crash of 1929. By early 1932, 40 percent of the German insured workforce, six million people, were unemployed. That same year, the Nazis became the largest political party in the German parliament. The Weimar government, tone deaf and hostage to the big industrialists, prioritized paying bank loans and austerity rather than feeding and employing a desperate population. It foolishly imposed severe restrictions on who was eligible for unemployment insurance. Millions of Germans went hungry. Desperation and rage rippled through the population. Mass rallies, led by a collection of buffoonish Nazis in brown uniforms who would have felt at home at Mar-a-Lago, denounced Jews, Communists, intellectuals, artists and the ruling class, as internal enemies. Hate was their main currency. It sold well.
The evisceration of democratic procedures and institutions, however, preceded the Nazis’ ascension to power in 1933. The Reichstag, the German Parliament, was as dysfunctional as the U.S. Congress. The Socialist leader Friedrich Ebert, president from 1919 until 1925, and later Heinrich Brüning, chancellor from 1930 to 1932, relied on Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution to largely rule by decree to bypass the fractious Parliament. Article 48, which granted the president the right in an emergency to issue decrees, was “a trapdoor through which Germany could fall into dictatorship,” historian Benjamin Carter Hett writes.
Article 48 was the Weimar equivalent of the executive orders liberally used by Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, to bypass our own legislative impasses. As in 1930s Germany, our courts — especially the Supreme Court — have been seized by extremists. The press has bifurcated into antagonistic tribes where lies and truth are indistinguishable, and opposing sides are demonized. There is little dialogue or compromise, the twin pillars of a democratic system.
The two ruling parties slavishly serve the dictates of the war industry, global corporations and the oligarchy, to which it has given huge tax cuts. It has established the most pervasive and intrusive system of government surveillance in human history. It runs the largest prison system in the world. It has militarized the police.
Democrats are as culpable as Republicans. The Obama administration interpreted the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force as giving the executive branch the right to erase due process and act as judge, jury and executioner in assassinating U.S. citizens, starting with radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Two weeks later, a U.S. drone strike killed Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, Anwar's 16-year-old son, who was never linked to terrorism, along with 9 other teenagers at a cafe in Yemen. It was the Obama administration that signed into law Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, overturning the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the use of the military as a domestic police force. It was the Obama administration that bailed out Wall Street and abandoned Wall Street’s victims. It was the Obama administration that repeatedly used the Espionage Act to criminalize those, such as Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, who exposed government lies, crimes and fraud. And it was the Obama administration that massively expanded the use of militarized drones.
The Nazis responded to the February 1933 burning of the Reichstag, which they likely staged, by employing Article 48 to push through the Decree for the Protection of the People and the State. The fascists instantly snuffed out the pretense of Weimar democracy. They legalized imprisonment without trial for anyone considered a national security threat. They abolished independent labor unions, freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of the press, along with the privacy of postal and telephone communications.
The step from dysfunctional democracy to full blown fascism was, and will again be, a small one. The hatred for the ruling class, embodied by the establishment Republican and Democratic parties, which have merged into one ruling party, is nearly universal. The public, battling inflation that is at a 40-year high and cost the average U.S. household an additional $717 a month in July alone, will increasingly see any political figure or political party willing to attack the traditional ruling elites as an ally. The more crude, irrational or vulgar the attack, the more the disenfranchised rejoice. These sentiments are true here and in Europe, where energy costs are expected to rise by as much as 80 percent this winter and an inflation rate of 10 percent is eating away at incomes.
The reconfiguration of society under neoliberalism to exclusively benefit the billionaire class, the slashing and privatization of public services, including schools, hospitals and utilities, along with deindustrialization, the profligate pouring of state funds and resources into the war industry, at the expense of the nation’s infrastructure and social services, and the building of the world’s largest prison system and militarization of police, have predictable results.
At the heart of the problem is a loss of faith in traditional forms of government and democratic solutions. Fascism in the 1930s succeeded, as Peter Drucker observed, not because people believed its conspiracy theories and lies but in spite of the fact that they saw through them. Fascism thrived in the face of “a hostile press, a hostile radio, a hostile cinema, a hostile church, and a hostile government which untiringly pointed out the Nazi lies, the Nazi inconsistency, the unattainability of their promises, and the dangers and folly of their course.” He added, “nobody would have been a Nazi if rational belief in the Nazi promises had been a prerequisite.”
As in the past, these new fascist parties cater to emotional yearnings. They give vent to feelings of abandonment, worthlessness, despair and alienation. They promise unattainable miracles. They too peddle bizarre conspiracy theories including QAnon. But most of all, they promise vengeance against a ruling class that betrayed the nation.
Hett defines the Nazis as “a nationalist protest movement against globalization.” The rise of the new fascism has its roots in a similar exploitation by global corporations and oligarchs. More than anything else, people want to regain control over their lives, if only to punish those blamed and scapegoated for their misery.
We have seen this movie before.
NOW IS A GOOD TIME to remind readers of the excellent German series "Babylon Berlin" available on Netflix.