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SCATTERED SHOWERS are forecast today through tonight across Del Norte, northern Humboldt and northern Trinity counties. Much cooler temperatures and north to northwest winds gusting from 20 to 40 mph are expected today and Sunday. Drier weather is expected Sunday into Sunday night. More light rain is expected Monday afternoon through Monday night. Another front will approach around mid week and may bring some more light rain. (NWS)
FREE TIRE DISPOSAL EVENT SCHEDULED FOR SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2022
Got unwanted or scrapped tires laying around? The City of Fort Bragg has teamed up once again with Conservation Corps North Bay to hold a FREE one-day tire disposal event! This event will be held in the City Hall parking lot at 430 N. Franklin Street on Saturday, October 22, 2022 from 9:00 am until 3:30 pm. Be advised, this event may close sooner if the tire storage trailer reaches capacity.
Acceptable tires include: up to 48” diameter size limit, rims okay, residential tires only, no bicycle tires, and no insect-infested tires will be accepted. Please remove any excess dirt or debris from tires. There is a limit of up to nine (9) tires per vehicle, and only the items listed above will be accepted.
This event is provided through a grant from CalRecycle and managed by Conservation Corps North Bay.
PROPOSITION P – NOT THE WAY TO HANDLE PUBLIC FUNDS
Open Letter to Mendocino Voters
I will surely make far more enemies than friends by expressing my concerns over Proposition P (and all such similar tax measures). But I do so out of an abiding belief that we must find a better way to tax ourselves for essential services. The Prop P approach is just wrong.
I like firefighters. I’m very glad we have them. I “support” them (whatever that means). I want them to have all necessary equipment for both fighting fires and protecting themselves while doing so. Virtually 100% of us feel the same. So Prop P will pass because it is a “substitute” tax use that maintains the existing sales tax rate rather than seeking to bump up that rate.
When Measure AA passed on the coast many years ago, it was because those who supported it like myself articulated a “new tax” need for a K-8 school in the Mendocino Unified School District. We developed plans, costs, analyses – and then “sold” the package to residents with information specifically about when and how that money would be used.
Compare with Prop P. Hyperbole abounds. We are simply told the tax proceeds will “support local fire departments” as well as “wildfire-preparedness programs.” Well, who could be against that? And certainly we all agree that “costs” have increased over the past five years. We are told all our departments countywide will get “financial relief they desperately need now.” (All emphasis in original.) Strong words. I had not heard about any such desperation previously. So what are those desperate needs? We’re never told.
I don’t know the individuals opposing Prop P nor am I aware of any “special interests” backing them. I’d like to know more but Prop P proponents don’t tell me. All I could discern from the Voter Information Pamphlet is that Ukiah is going to get the biggest bundle of funds. To be used for? Why isn’t Chief Hutchinson featured prominently? The website yesonpmendocino.com is not more helpful, other than to stoke more fears by telling me the “current volunteer fire system is not sustainable!” OK. But when did that happen exactly and what does “sustainable” mean? Six years ago, the Board of Supervisors expressed that Prop 172 funding would not meet fire needs. So why hasn’t the Board of Supervisors put a dedicated tax measure on the ballot since then?
In the future, maybe we can do better allocating tax funds based on articulated and precise needs. Taxpayers deserve as much.
A READER WRITES:
Rumor control: I heard my friend Bobby Miller was abandoned in San Francisco. You might know Bobby as the person in Fort Bragg who pushed a stroller also known as Stomper; he would get stuck and stomp.
The police chief bragged on how they had reunited Bobby with his family and we're sending him back home. Bobby did not want to go home. He liked Fort Bragg. Bobby was somehow persuaded to get on the bus to drive into San Francisco. Once there he would have to wait six hours for his next bus ride. Bobby never made it to the next bus ride. A six hour wait is a long time for a person like Bobby who can easily become sidetracked. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why the police did not drive them directly to San Francisco. Bobby is now stranded in the city, a very dangerous place for a person like Bobby.
I recently read in the newspaper how another police department, I think it was San Rafael, drove to the city to drop off a homeless person. It was caught on video. I guess Fort Bragg thought they could do the same thing, drop my friend off and be done with him. If they are so passionate about homeless persons, why not drive him directly to San Francisco and put him on the bus yourself?
When I went to the police headquarters to inquire about this they told me the person who started the program quit after being yelled at by a supervisor and that they would have someone contact me. No one ever called me back. Therefore, I am writing to you to find out what's going on and if this rumor is true.
I also heard the replacement is an ex-felon. I didn't think the police could hire someone with a criminal history record.
We have so many persons in need. Look at your frequent flyer arrests, like Rita, the old lady north of town, and so many more. I guess they can't send them out of town so they don't know how to deal with them.
This is such a shame. This program was really shaping up to be something to “Bragg” about.
I am remaining anonymous. I do not want the cops after me for bringing this information up to you. Good luck on your investigative research.
* * *
MY INVESTIGATIVE RESEARCH reveals the following: Mr. Miller was not “abandoned” in San Francisco. He was supposed to continue on to his home in Ohio, but self-abandoned in SF.
THE PERSON referred to as a “felon” is not a felon but did once suffer a minor misdemeanor the record of which has been expunged.
FORT BRAGG has gone way, way above and beyond with Mr. Miller, aka The Stomper, who has since returned to Fort Bragg after a huge investment in travel-prep by Fort Bragg's crisis team to reunite him with his mother in Ohio. Implying that he has been “dumped” by FB as we saw in the San Rafael case is not true.
FORT BRAGG'S crisis team did everything possible to prepare Mr. Miller for his bus trip halfway across the country. He was given a night in a motel so he could shower, he was given a haircut, new clothes, enough packaged food to get him all the way home, and a precise itinerary shared with his mom who was eager for her son's return.
BUT MR. MILLER got off the bus in San Francisco, was arrested in Marin for an undisclosed reason and, as mentioned, has since made his way back to Fort Bragg. You might say he represents a sort of Banquo's Ghost for Fort Bragg, as the crisis people gear up for another go at reunification of mother and son.
THE CURRENT PLAN is to fly mom out here to personally retrieve her wayward son, mother and son being on board with this latest plan because it is now clear that Mr. Miller is incapable of making the trip home by himself.
FORT BRAGG'S effectiveness in working with troubled persons to keep them functioning without involving the police and referrals to expensive mental health services, or jail, spares everyone much expense, psychic and fiscal.
I THINK any fair-minded person familiar with the Miller case would have to concede that Fort Bragg not only has done everything possible to get this one guy back to his home state of Ohio, but the town's three outreach persons have spared all of us much expense, psychic and fiscal, in direct intervention with people who would otherwise be jailed or consigned to expensive out-of-the-area psych programs.
FROM FORT BRAGG'S WEBSITE: “Currently, there is very limited space in the county’s Ukiah outpatient clinics. The city of Fort Bragg operates the “CRU Van,” [Crisis Response Unit] a Crisis Prevention Team that works alongside police officers to provide early intervention for those on the edge. By September, Mayor Norvell hopes to see the opening of “Crisis Respite,” a four-bed mental health facility located at the Mendocino Coast Adventist Hospital. The county and Redwood Community Services are partners as well, and the intent is to take in people who turn up in the ER who are in a crisis but are not violent.
“All of our non-profit organizations diligently work to assist our homeless population. Some groups are more well-known in the community than others. The Fort Bragg Food Bank, the Mendocino Children’s Fund, the Mendocino Coast Clinics, and Hospitality House and Hospitality Wellness Center, which includes a specialty mental health clinic and a street medicine program, all actively fundraise. Other organizations have contracts with the county to provide mental and medical health treatment beyond Ukiah. Redwood Community Services, Safe Passage, Project Sanctuary, and others quietly serve people in need. These organizations rely on the generosity of private donors, large and small.
“The city, the police department, and all the non-profit organizations would like the community to understand that most homeless people are not dangerous, do not spread contagious diseases, and do not actively choose to be homeless. What child has ever declared that homelessness was his ambition in life? Mayor Norvell said he has learned that homeless people “have struggles different from you and me.” Their demons, unfortunately, have handicapped their ability to lead stable, productive lives.
“Everyone in our community should want to see people receive the help they need to rejoin society as contributing members. Important debates remain to be discussed about how service groups can avoid replicating each other’s services which could free up precious dollars for different needs, how to end the shortage of affordable housing, and how to develop an in-patient facility for substance abuse and mental health treatment. The public should not assume this debate belongs just to the service providers. It belongs to all of us.”
Attn: Mr Joe Farrell,
You asked for my opinion.
I'm angry with UPS for the just announced closure of the UPS office in Fort Bragg CA 95437. It's the only UPS facility on the coast of Mendocino County. The nearest other UPS office is in Willits, a long, slow, twisting driver over a mountain range, with round trip time 2 hours! Not to mention it would take 3 to 4 gallons of gas at $6 per gallon. Outrageous!
The customer service office at Fort Bragg is in the UPS distribution depot, which will remain open. It offers only a short window of 2 or 3 hours for public shipping and pick up. Now even that limited service is going to be shut down.
Although there are a few businesses that handle packing and shipping via UPS and Fedex, they all cost significantly more than shipping directly with UPS.
Please DO NOT close the public UPS office at Fort Bragg CA. If you do, people will ship via USPS or FedEx, and UPS will lose our business.
Other than that, I'm generally happy with UPS. I receive 2-3 deliveries per week to my home.
Please DO NOT close the public UPS office at Fort Bragg CA.
Little River CA 95456
POT PERMIT APPEALS PROCESS LIKELY TO BRING BACK THE LINTOTT PROBLEM
by Mark Scaramella
We've seen some ridiculously long orders and ordinances issued by various overpaid Mendocino County officials in recent years. The most conspicuous of them was the 29 page shelter in place order issued by former (San Diego-based) health officer Noemi Doohan back in the spring of 2020 which even included a full page of orders for golfers which, among other things, prohibited the sharing of golf clubs.
On Tuesday, Deputy County Counsel Matt Kiedrowski introduced a new draft version of the county's cannabis permit ordinance which was 30 pages long, more than 20 pages were to update the establishment of Mendo’s relatively new “Cannabis Department, and eight of which were proposed to be added to cover the permit appeals process.
Item 4d: “Discussion and Possible Action Including (1) Adoption of a Resolution Approving and Adopting an Addendum to the Previously Adopted Mitigated Negative Declaration, in Compliance with California Environmental Quality Act Requirements, for Amendments to Chapter 10A.17 of the Mendocino County Code to Establish an Appeals Process and Define Department as the Cannabis Department; and (2) Introduction and Waive First Reading of an Ordinance Amending Chapter 10A.17- Mendocino Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance to Establish an Appeals Process and Define Department as the Cannabis Department
(Sponsor: County Counsel) … Ordinance Amending Chapter 10a.17 – Mendocino Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance To Establish An Appeals Process And Define Department As The Cannabis Department.”
Several pot permit applicants and their lawyers and consultants told the board that the draft did not include sufficient provision to allow applicants who had been denied a permit to submit all of the material they wanted to submit.
The new appeals process has been discussed in typically interminable cannabis style detail several times in the past but has yet to be formally approved. Approval is scheduled for an upcoming board meeting.
Some readers may recall that back when Meredith Lintott was Mendocino County District Attorney, prior to legalization when only medicinal marijuana was legal, court cases for felony marijuana cultivation could drag on for weeks as growers/defendants brought in their patients, their consultants, their lawyers, their doctors and medical experts, and so forth, to attempt to prove they were growing medicinal marijuana.
The Lintott approach clogged local courts so much that a large backlog of non-cannabis related criminal cases had accumulated when DA Lintott lost her bid for re-election to David Eyster in 2010.
Soon after being elected Eyster instituted his now famous “buy a misdemeanor” policy which, among other things, quickly eliminated the Lintott backlog as most growers were willing to plead to a misdemeanor and pay a fine rather than spend money on lawyers and experts, etc., and even then not know what the outcome of their felony trial would be.
Now with “legalization” we have the prospect of a civil version of this old backlog problem looming. Hundreds of cannabis permit applicants have been denied permit approval, in many cases for nonspecific reasons, who will now be given a chance to pay for an appeal to present their case to a hearing officer.
Mendo's Cannabis Program Director Kristen Nevadal told the board on Tuesday that some of the permits had been denied because applicants did not submit all the required paperwork in a timely manner and that many applications came in piecemeal, and even then sometimes incomplete, sometimes unresponsive. Some of those applications have been withdrawn as growers either quit, gave up, or chose to go back to the black market. But many of the denied applications allegedly never quite satisfied all the requirements in the opinion of a cannabis bureaucrat — requirements which many say can be arbitrary and which keep changing over time — no matter how much good faith may have been involved on the applicant's part.
Now under this new appeals process we expect that, similar to the pre-legalization days, growers still attempting to go legit will bring in reams of supporting material such as photographs, documents, e-mails, reports, lawyers, consultants, recordings, videos, maps, and more in an attempt to prove that their permit application was mishandled or otherwise unfairly denied. (Don’t forget that despite the collapse of the marijuana economy, the Cannabis Department had grown substantially, although reportedly it is still “understaffed.”)
If anyone thought that marijuana hearings prior to legalization were long and tedious and heavily backlogged, they probably haven't seen anything yet when the civil appeals hearing process gets going.
And there are no attorneys on the County's legal team like David Eyster around to come up with a creatively efficient way up handling these complicated appeals.
FEDERAL PANEL REJECTS SKUNK TRAIN OWNER’S BID TO ACQUIRE ABANDONED RAIL LINE NORTH OF WILLITS
by Mary Callahan
The federal board that oversees U.S. railroads has firmly rejected a bid by Mendocino Railway, owner of the popular Skunk Train in Fort Bragg, to take control of a 13-mile stretch of abandoned railroad extending north from Willits in the Eel River watershed.
The decision announced late Thursday by the Surface Transportation Board signaled an end to months of uncertainty about future use of the railroad and opens up a clearer path for ambitious plans to convert the entire line from rail to multiuse trail.
“Now we can move forward without impediment,” said Caryl Hart, chairwoman of the Great Redwood Trail agency, created to develop a hiking/biking/equestrian trail spanning 320 miles from San Francisco Bay to Arcata in Humboldt County.
“This has been a cloud that has been hanging over us,” Hart added. “Now that cloud is lifted, and it’s just blue skies ahead.”
State Sen. Mike McGuire, a vocal champion of the trail, said the board’s decision amounted to “a momentous day for the future of the North Coast and the Great Redwood Trail.”
The Surface Transformation Board “was extremely clear and concise in their decision,” McGuire, D-Healdsburg, said in a written statement, “and we are grateful for all of the work they have put into making the Trail a reality. Obviously, we’ll be on the lookout for any potential Hail Mary attempts to appeal and we’ll be at the ready to beat them back in the coming few weeks.”
McGuire and the trail agency already had a town hall meeting planned Monday night to kick off master planning for the trail.
“With this proposal soundly rejected by the federal government, I’m thrilled that we’ll once and for all start moving dirt and getting large swaths of the Great Redwood Trail built,” he said.
The Surface Transportation Board said Mendocino Railway did not sufficiently prove it had the financial means to cover its $5.48 million bid to buy the 13-mile stretch nor the additional funds needed to rehabilitate it.
Its own inspectors estimated repairs at $7.24 million to $8.9 million. The railway also would need to maintain and operate the track.
The line has been unusable since a drenching storm in 1998 washed out steep sides of the Eel River, sending segments of train track to the canyon below and collapsing tunnels.
The North Coast Railroad Authority, a now-defunct public agency that controlled the railroad and made some preliminary investments in repairs, had projected the cost of restoration at $2.3 billion or more some years ago, though Hart said the real cost is lower.
But the federal board said it took seriously input from McGuire and others characterizing the track “as susceptible to repeated landslides, tunnel collapses, and repetitive rehabilitation.”
Still, before the railroad could be formally abandoned and “banked” — so it still could be used, theoretically, for rail transportation at a later date — and its conversion to a public trail allowed like others around the nation before it, the Surface Transportation Board was required to allow for offers from anyone who might wants to finance its continued use for rail.
One such effort was thwarted when the federal board rejected efforts by a mysterious Wyoming company to take control of 176 miles of line that many feared would be used to run Rocky Mountain coal through North Coast communities and the rugged, remote Eel River Canyon.
In rejecting the smaller scale Mendocino Railway bid, the federal board also turned down the company’s proposal to acquire just the rail right of way so that the Great Redwood Trail could run alongside it.
Mendocino Railway President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Pinoli said he was disappointed in the decision. The railway has grown its stake in both commercial freight rail and real estate in the region, and Pinoli cited those interests as well as those of a prospective client who reached out hoping to arrange for rail transportation of its gravel from the confluence of Outlet Creek and the Eel River to Willits in Mendocino County.
But he said the rail company would not appeal.
He blamed the defeat on Mendocino Railway’s own failure to “do a good enough job demonstrating we have the financing” to operate the rail even though, at the railway’s request, the federal board agreed to keep most of the accounting details private.
He also chastised McGuire for leading the opposition to a commercial venture along the line, and suggested the trail was no different from “a bridge to nowhere” at taxpayer expense, citing early estimates of low usage.
“We gave the Surface Transportation Board the opportunity to allow the baby to be split, so to speak, where rails and trails could exist together, and they refused to consider it. And what’s even more frustrating is we have for years been working in good faith with Senator McGuire, and he has completely shit on the idea of rails and trails and it’s a real disappointment,” Pinoli said. “You can’t tell me that you’re a champion of the environment and a steward of all things good and then foreclose on commodities moving by rail.”
McGuire said in response, “The Surface Transportation Board made a data-driven decision. All sides made their case, and the board reviewed hundreds of documents about this project over the past year.”
“The STB made it very clear by tossing out Mendocino Railway’s filing that they didn’t have the finances to build out the line and they weren’t qualified,” he said. “Now that we have this chapter behind us, it’s time to start building out this spectacular public gem of a trail that will benefit generations of Californians.”
A preliminary study released in 2020 by the California State Transportation Agency said the Great Redwood Trail could cost as much as $1 billion to build, and another $4 billion to address environmental impact.
McGuire at the time dismissed those figures as “hogwash” and “not based in reality,” and transportation officials stressed the figures were “preliminary” and “variable.”
The master plan, expected to take two to three years, is meant to provide a more detailed examination of potential costs.
In Sonoma and Marin counties, the trail will double as part of the foot and bike path planned to accompany SMART’s 70-mile passenger rail line from Larkspur to Cloverdale.
Hart said the future trail is expected to have tremendous appeal, not only to those seeking to walk or ride on the trail, but those seeking access to the Eel River for kayaking, rafting and other uses.
The trail will take visitors to Founder’s Grove in Humboldt County, campgrounds at sites along the way, including the 30,000-acre Eel River Canyon Preserve, acquired by The Wildlands Conservancy last year and set to open for public access in the coming years.
“The whole goal here is an economic transformation of the North Coast,” Hart said.
AIR ATTACK BASE - FOND FAREWELL - UKIAH’S HOMEGROWN CAL FIRE TANKER PILOT TO RETIRE
by Justine Frederiksen
John Butts has flown Cal Fire planes out of the Ukiah Air Attack Base for more than 30 years, spending most of that time at the controls of Tanker 91. So when Butts took off in that plane for likely the last time Tuesday, his co-workers wanted to give him a special send-off.
Cal Fire Battalion Aviation Chief Ray Taglio, who has worked with Butts at the base in the Ukiah airport since 2009, said once Butts took off to deliver the tanker to Sacramento for its winter hibernation on Oct. 18, the land-based firefighters he called on to help salute the pilot drove their engines onto the runway.
Taglio then got on the radio to tell Butts, “Hey, there’s a box of parts here they need (in Sacramento), can you come back and get them?” After dutifully heading back to the airport, Butts asked, “Is everything OK? I see a bunch of fire engines down there.”
“No, and there’s no box of parts you need to get either, so you don’t need to stop,’” said Taglio, at which point Butts realized what was happening — the ground-level firefighters were saluting their aerial colleague with a “water curtain” before he took off again.
‘I love flying’
Butts started with Cal Fire in the 1980s, then left for a job flying corporate planes. In 1995 he returned to firefighting, and has been working out of the Ukiah Air Attack Base ever since.
When asked why he chose to fly tankers for so long, Butts said, “I love flying. I love the particular plane that we fly, and I love what we do with it.”
And he loves not just how his work helps save lives and livelihoods from fires — Butts loves every aspect of the detailed process of properly placing a swath of retardant to provide the most impact.
“It’s an art,” he said of knowing when to release the bright pink liquid at the perfect moment. So if the fire is the canvas, the plane is the brush and the retardant the paint, how does Butts know where to color?
“By paying attention, and learning to read all the visual cues,” he said. “Knowing how high up you are, watching the smoke move to know where and how fast the air is moving, and studying the terrain below to judge how the retardant will land.”
“All tanker pilots are good at making drops, but John in particular was someone I knew who could get the retardant exactly where it needed to be,” said Taglio, who also fights fires from the air, just not in a plane — he watches the smoke and flames from a 2,500-foot-tall tower while carefully planning each attack.
When asked for an example of Butts’ skill in placing retardant, Taglio recalled a fire on Shepard Lane near Boonville Road that broke out soon after he started at the base. With the fire bearing down on a house, Taglio said a perfectly timed drop from Butts saved the structure.
Butts also remembers that fire, recalling that he and a fellow pilot were heading out to another fire, but “self-dispatched” to Shepard Lane when they saw the smoke in the western hills. From the tower, Taglio could see the fire approaching the house, while from the cockpit Butts could see the owner trying to save his home from the flames roaring toward his deck.
Butts knew as he dropped retardant “between the house and the fire” he would likely paint part of the house and even the homeowner, “but it’s better to be pink than burnt,” he said.
Slowest fire year in ages
Taglio said the 2022 fire year has been the quietest since he started at the base 13 years ago, and Butts said he hasn’t seen one this slow since the 1980s.
So instead of dropping retardant most days these past few months, Butts admitted he’s been spending a lot of time “trying to beat Taglio at ping pong.” And while he would love to be in the air instead, Butts said he is not sad at all to be spending so much of his final year flying for Cal Fire waiting on the ground rather than battling the “major ragers” the region has seen far too many of in recent years.
“We love fighting fires and we love staying proficient at it,” Butts said. “So while it would be great to have some small brush fires that we can easily put out, I am happy to have a slow last year if it means we aren’t having the terrible, destructive fires we’ve had, and that no one is getting hurt. For that, I am grateful.”
‘I love the view from the air’
Now “67 and a half,” Butts has been flying for 53 years. And though he will stop flying for Cal Fire soon, he plans to still be in a cockpit as much as possible. Because ever since he first flew a plane at age 14, he has been hooked.
“It was an enlightening experience,” he recalls of that first flight out of the Ukiah airport in his father’s small Luscombe “tail-dragger.”
As a kid, Butts liked driving anything that would go fast, but not even the fastest mini-bike could compare to a plane, with “all those gadgets at your fingertips, letting you go as fast as you possibly can.”
And though at 14 he was too young to drive a car, Butts said it was perfectly legal for him to operate a plane at that age because his father, a licensed pilot, was flying with him.
Butts went on to fly solo at 16, then became a licensed pilot himself with the help of his older brother Mike, a flight instructor who described John as “the best student I ever had.”
Once retired, Butts said he is looking forward to flying his own plane to visit Mike in Nevada, or other family in San Diego. Or, frankly, just flying. Anywhere.
“I just love the view from up in the air,” he said. “There’s nothing else like it, being able to fly over San Francisco and see snow-capped Mt. Shasta hundreds of miles away.”
(Ukiah Daily Journal)
LAUREN SINNOTT: I met John Butts while painting the big history mural in downtown Ukiah. He told me about flying and I painted him in the “service” panel which features firefighters, as well as those who render medical, emergency and military service. That is, I painted his Tanker 91 flying over a wildfire, with him at the helm. Congratulations John!
A HISTORY OF THE ANDERSON VALLEY BREWERY
by Wes Smoot
In 1974 a devastating fire occurred at the Wiese's Valley Inn completely destroying the bar and restaurant. This left a great vacancy in the town of Boonville. After the lot was cleaned of debris from the fire, it was left vacant for several years until around 1979 or 1980 when a gentleman named Ken Allen and his wife Kim purchased the lot and the house in back of the lot. Shortly after purchasing the lot Mr. Allen contacted a contractor to build a large, three-story building with an office at the very top, a bar and restaurant and dining room on the second floor and a large basement on the bottom. This was a very attractive building as well as being a great asset to the town of Boonville.
After a few months getting started with the bar and restaurant business, Mr. Allen decided to start a small micro brewery in the basement of the building. After a few weeks selling the brew at the bar upstairs and distributing it in a few places in the Valley, he also started moving the brew to other locations around the area. It became obvious that the basement was getting too small to make enough beer to satisfy his growing number of customers.
At this point, after shopping around and doing some serious dealing, Ken was able to purchase a piece of property from an old time local estate owner named Mr. Herbert Singley. The property was at the corner of Highway 253 on the west side of the road at the junction of Highway 128. This is where the first Anderson Valley town was located at the west end of the valley around 1856 and was named “The Corners.”
After having all the paperwork completed and getting all the i's dotted and t's crossed, it was time to get started with the construction of a new brewery under the ownership of David Norfleet, Ken Allen and Kim Allen in 1987. The new owners decided to make the location official, so they worked up a christening party and a dedication for the new location.
The dedication consisted of several of the construction workers starting construction of the brewery by making a mound of dirt on the spot and placing a large rock on top of the dirt mound where a large bottle of beer was to be broken over the rock. To make it more official, Ken asked Valley old-timer Bobby Glover if he could work up a small skit for the ceremony. Bobby immediately contacted me (Wes Smoot) and it was decided that I would be the Pope and Bobby Glover would be the bishop in full bishop and pope regalia. In order to make the ceremony more official Bobby Glover contacted R.D. Beacon of Elk to see if he would agree to bring his beautiful Rolls-Royce sedan over to Boonville and be the chauffeur to take Bobby and I to the ceremony area. This was agreed to and the ceremony began. A good time was had by all. It was quite a sight for Boonville
The original brewery designed and built by a Northern California gentleman by the name of David Norfleet and it was designed to be a ten brewers barrel brewery. The brewery was later sold and purchased by an Eastern family named Trey and Laura White and their cousins Andris and Fran DeGreen. They owned the brewery from 2001 to 2019 during which time it was increased in size from a ten barrel brewery to a 30 barrel brewery. In 2019 the brewery sold once again to a Mr. Michael McGee and it has since been upgraded to a 100 barrel brewery. The present brewery equipment was purchased from two breweries in Germany, Staffelstein and Kasaendorf. Those breweries were built by H. Huppman in 1959 and 1961. There were purchased in 1995 and installed in Boonville in 2000.
There have been several head brewers over the years. The original brewmaster was the owner and partner, David Norfleet. The first non-owner brewer was Bill Harper and later brewers were Brit Antrim, Dave Gatlin and, for the last 12 years it has been master brewer Fal Allen. Fal started at the brewery in 2001 and was made general manager in 2005. He later left the brewery in 2005 and returned in 2010 as head brewmaster.
Footnote: The Anderson Valley Brewery started the annual Boonville Beer Festival in 1995 and it has since grown in popularity.
To close, I would like to send a big thank you to Mr. Ken Allen, Kim Allen, David Norfleet, Michael McGee, Fal Allen, and anyone else I may have overlooked.
POINT ARENA CITY COUNCIL MEETING - October 25, 2022
It can also be viewed @ pointarena.ca.gov/notices/2022-10-25-city-council-meeting/
We just launched our Kickstarter campaign! We are so excited for the strong support already and we have a long way to go to meet our big goal. Please visit our campaign and lend your support so we can complete our amazing album and get this heartfelt, honest music out into the big beautiful world.
JACKSON STATE FOREST NEWS
As part of JDSF’s unique role as a living laboratory and as an effort to better understand how fuel treatments impact a redwood forest ecosystem, CAL FIRE and a diverse group of forest and fire scientists from Cal Poly Humboldt, University of California Berkeley, and the University of California Cooperative Extension have started a broad-ranging fire mitigation study to learn more about how the work we do can help prevent or mitigate fires in the future.
The first of its kind undertaken nationally in a redwood forest setting, the new study will aim to measure and analyze fire mitigation variables across the JDSF. Learn More Donald Bone and a friend ride their horses on the Sweet Pea trail. The trail has been upgraded with a new bridge to protect one of the many water crossings. The new bridge capable of handling people, bikes and horses, making it accessible to all users.
Thanks to the work of many, Sweet Pea Trail now accessible to more community members Installation of an equestrian bridge on the proposed Sweet Pea Trail began in late September. Unit Assistant Chief Brandon Gunn directed Chamberlain Creek Crew #5 to help make it happen, transporting 60 pieces of large wood ranging 6-12 feet in length along approximately 1.5 miles of single-track trail. Bridge abutments and stringers were established, with the remaining work will be completed by next month.
After installation, the Sweet Pea Trail will become official and added to JDSF’s Recreation Maps for public use, providing another benefit for both Mendocino County residents and Californians statewide. This is part of a productive and ongoing effort in cooperation with the Mendocino Coast Cyclists to establish a trail along 3.7-miles of abandoned Road 630 and funded by direct reinvestment of timber sales back into the forest. Installation of fiberglass posts with decals denoting trail names is also underway to help recreation users better navigate the forest. The Little Red Schoolhouse, located between Fort Bragg and Willits on Hwy 20, shown here today and then before restoration.
Learning from the past while looking to the future. The historic Caspar Woods Schoolhouse, or the Little Red Schoolhouse, restored at JDSF JDSF is rich with history and the restoration of the Little Red Schoolhouse is a great opportunity to learn more about the area’s past. The foundation, roof, front porch and windows of the schoolhouse have been replaced. Since the building is considered a historical building, the restoration had to be as close to the original as possible. This schoolhouse was in operation between 1915-1955 and made in three segments so that it could be transported, via railroad, further inland as timber camps moved inland. The schoolhouse is located at Camp 20, the halfway point between Willits and Fort Bragg, on Hwy 20. The public is invited to visit and enjoy this beautifully restored schoolhouse.
Private forest landowners recently spent the day at JDSF learning about several forest management demonstrations that could potentially be replicated on their properties. Jackson serves as a living laboratory for research and demonstrations that inform private landowners throughout the Redwood Region and beyond.
Forestry groups and forest landowners spend the day at JDSF, sharing Jackson staff welcomed the Forest Landowners of California (FLC) last month for a field day to showcase best practices and the unique research and demonstration opportunities of the past, present, and future at JDSF, and how these efforts can benefit forest landowners and managers across the state.
As part of the JDSF management plan, nearly 33% of the forest is designated as an Older Forest Structure Zone. These areas consist of silvicultural prescriptions such as no harvest zones, including the few remaining old growth groves and late seral development prescriptions. How protecting the “Older Forest Structure Zone” at JDSF elevates conservation, restoration, research, and demonstration in the redwood ecosystem In case you missed it, the California state demonstration forest system protects and conserves thousands of acres through its role as California's living laboratory. In addition to the near dozen old growth groves that are permanently protected at JDSF, the Older Forest Structure Zone (OFSZ) produces structural characteristics of older forests, which include large trees, snags, down logs, multiple canopy layers, and a high level of structural diversity.
Carbon sequestration and storage are both important elements of the redwood ecosystem as well as management of the forest at JDSF. Demonstrating a resilient forest requires understanding the different functions of both the sequestration and storage of carbon. Carbon Sequestration and Carbon Storage at JDSF What is the difference between carbon storage and carbon sequestration and how do these two activities play out at JDSF?
The JDSF is a valuable resource when it comes to both the storage and sequestration of carbon and the forest’s management is well poised to lead the way for the rest of the state on balancing natural resource management needs while conserving ecosystems. Carbon storage occurs in trees’ bole, branches, roots, and soil and is most secure in ecosystems that are resilient to disturbances. Carbon sequestration occurs through photosynthesis when trees combine CO2 from the atmosphere with water from soil and convert them to oxygen and sugars using the power of the sun. Healthy growing trees can sequester large amounts of carbon while carbon storage is associated with old growth. To demonstrate a climate resilient forest, both older forest structure (storage) and vigorously growing (sequestration) trees are needed to mitigate climate change and enhance other resources.
Working to prevent catastrophic fire while improving the ecosystem and supporting cultural practices. Prescribed burning at JDSF scheduled through the end of next week CAL FIRE is conducting a large broadcast burn, located east of Fort Bragg and north of Parlin Fork Conservation Camp at 23000 State Highway 20. Smoke will be visible in the area. Burning is planned for Monday, October 17, 2022, through Friday, October 28, 2022, 12 noon to 5 p.m. each day, weather and air quality conditions permitting.
Prescribed burning and fire prevention and mitigation are top priorities for CAL FIRE foresters and staff and this burn aims to reintroduce fire as a natural element of the ecosystem. Another top goal involves improving wildlife habitat by inducing new shoots from sprouting species to increase forage production, with islands of unburned fuel left within the burned area to provide shelter for small mammals.
The burn will reduce overall vegetation helping to decrease the chance of catastrophic wildfires in the future. Lastly, this prescribed fire will burn through several of the 15 fire effects monitoring plots installed by UC Cooperative Extension allowing researchers to monitor them post fire.
Start your outdoor career as a State Forest Aide. Applications are now open for JDSF and several other demonstration state forests across California. Become a Jackson Demonstration State Forest Aide Find your place outdoors, get a true understanding of forestry, and join us in the woods. CAL FIRE is recruiting approximately 20 Forestry Aides at JDSF and across the Boggs Mountain, Latour, and Mountain Home State Forests. Students looking for summer positions, graduate students and individuals who meet the minimum qualifications are encouraged to apply. Duties include general timber harvest plan field preparation work, timber making, cruising, flagging watercourses, pest control, forest engineering, recreation management, campground maintenance, establishing and measuring sample plots, resource surveys, seed processing, and nursery operations. Your adventure in the outdoors begins at Cal Careers below. Apply by October 21, 2022.
Stay up to date with the latest news, development, and planning at the JDSF. The Jackson Demonstration State Forest Advisory Group’s (JAG) next meeting is scheduled for November 15, 2022 Stay tuned to the JDSF website for the November 15 agenda and documents to be posted no later than November 4.
For more information on the JAG, its members, purpose, and to see details of previous meetings click the link below.
As the wet season sets in, help us protect our roads and campgrounds from erosion. Seasonal closures now in effect at Jackson Demonstration Forest to protect against erosion and other impacts As of Monday, October 10, all State Forest campgrounds and roads (with some exceptions, see link below) will be closed to unauthorized public vehicle traffic. Roads may still be used for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. As we move into the wet season the seasonal closure helps to protect our roads and campgrounds as rutting and erosion causes both road and stream damage. Roads and campgrounds are expected to re-open in spring 2023.
For more information go to https://www.fire.ca.gov
On Thursday, October 13, 2022 a Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputy became aware that Donald Wiltse, 35, of Willits, was possibly in violation of the penal code for failing to register as a sex offender.
The Deputy conducted an investigation and found Wiltse last registered in 2021 with an address in Santa Clara County (California). The Deputy learned Wiltse had been living in Willits and had failed to register his new address as required by law.
On Friday, October 14, 2022 Deputies went to a location on Hawk Drive in Willits where they contacted and arrested Wiltse for failing to register as a sex offender in Mendocino County.
Wiltse was booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held in lieu of $15,000 bail.
BIG MOUTH & AN SKS
On Saturday, October 15, 2022 at about 8:30 AM, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office received a call from a citizen about a possible violation of a court order near Whitethorn.
Deputies learned there was a restraining order against Wade Patrick Hayes, 53, of Westport. The court order advised Hayes could not threaten or harass the reporting party in this case. The order further advised Hayes could not possess firearms or ammunition.
Deputies were told Hayes had been yelling at the bottom of the protected person's driveway threatening to harm the person and the person's entire family.
Deputies responded to a residence located in the 77000 block of Usal Road and contacted Hayes.
After speaking to Hayes, he was arrested for violation of the court order and criminal threats.
Deputies established probably cause to believe there was a loaded SKS style firearm in the residence during the contact.
Deputies remained at the residence, while a search warrant was authored and presented to a Mendocino County Judge. Once the search warrant was reviewed and signed by the judge, a search of the residence was conducted.
In the residence, Deputies located an SKS firearm loaded with 10 live rounds. They further located a box of .38 special ammunition.
The additional charges of Possessing a firearm in violation of a court order and Possession of ammunition by prohibited person were added.
Hayes was booked into the Mendocino County Jail to be held in lieu of $20,000 bail.
DID YOU SAY DINNER PLANS? Enjoy delicious Northern Italian Cuisine at Luna Trattoria! Family recipes created in Italy years ago and now prepared here in Fort Bragg.
THE ANDERSON VALLEY WINEGROWERS ASSOCIATION is having a harvest celebration this weekend. We have a limited number of reduced $75 tickets (vs. $135) and we would love to see some faces from the community at the event and on the dance floor. Tickets available at the door until sold out. Event is Friday, 10/21, from 5:00-9:00 PM in the Grove at the Fairgrounds.
Ticket includes: Live music by DGIIN, a chef-pig roast, 26 wineries, AV Brewing, Mendocino Spirits, and Gowan's Cider.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Friday, October 21, 2022
JOSE ACOSTA, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
GERALD GREEN, Eureka/Ukiah. Controlled substance, concentrated cannabis, suspended license, driving without a license, probation revocation.
ZACHARY HUGHES, Ukiah. DUI.
IVETTE MENDOZA, Ukiah. Controlled substance, probation revocation.
ISIDRO MURO, Covelo. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, disobeying court order.
WILLIAM OWENS, Ukiah. Paraphernalia, parole violation.
MONICA SAVIDAN, Ukiah. Under influence, probation revocation.
CYNTHIA VEGA-AYALA, Ukiah. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, failure to appear.
PEACE, LOVE & RENEWABLE ENERGY
I just finished reading Anisa Thompson's letter regarding lithium mining and clean energy.
As an aside, nationwide use of solar panels on all structures having southern facing roofs where ample sunlight is available should be funded by the US government.
It seems to me that this approach, in addition to the capture of wind energy and tidal forces could lead to an enormous decrease in the use of fossil fuels. As to the problems associated with lithium mining (a nonrenewable energy source), a major increase in mass transit and discouragement of the use of private vehicles could possibly lead to a decrease in the need for lithium-ion batteries. Also, a concerted program of scientific study of new battery design technology could bring us to a point where we would provide power in a much less destructive fashion than is now available.
This is all to say nothing of this potential of energy from hydrogen powered transportation would could conceivably be derived from solar powered de-ionization of seawater.
And finally, to paraphrase Jimmy Humble, May you all have peace, love and understanding in your lives.
MEMO OF THE AIR: Good Night Radio live from Franklin St. all night Friday night!
Deadline to email your writing for tonight's (Friday night's) MOTA show is about 5:30pm. Or send it whenever it's done and I'll read it on the radio next week. There's always a next week; I've been doing this show on KNYO, and for awhile also on KMEC, and before that KMFB since 1997. I'm kind of committed to it.
Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio is every Friday, 9pm to 5am on 107.7fm KNYO-LP Fort Bragg as well as anywhere else via http://airtime.knyo.org:8040/128 (That's the regular link to listen to KNYO in real time.) (Or just go to KNYO.org and click /Listen/. And the schedule is there for KNYO's many other even more terrific shows.)
Any day or night you can go to https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com and hear last week's MOTA show. By Saturday night the recording of tonight's show will also be there.
Besides all that, there you'll find a whole bag of delicious educational gumballs to chew on until showtime, or any time, such as:
The existence forecast.
Real, actual aborted pregnancy photos. That's not a baby. It's not even a chicken. It isn't screaming any more than spoiled food in your fridge is screaming.
Menopause, myth or hoax? (via Redwood Mary)
And you never know when your hardy band of partisan Italian anti-fascist patriots might need to hide in the forest and have a stealth camp. A stealth camp needs a stealth stove, for hot chocolate and squirrel stew and whatnot. Follow this man's safety suggestions; you don't want to cut your finger open with those snips.
— Marco McClean, email@example.com, https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com
BILL KIMBERLIN: At Skywalker Ranch we had a technical building stage large enough to record a symphony orchestra playing to the projected image of Star Wars or any other movie we were hired to work on.
American Pickers Come to California!
I am a Producer with the TV show American Pickers on the History Channel. I am reaching out because our show is planning to return to California this January. We're looking for leads throughout the state, specifically interesting characters with fascinating items and lots of them! The way we find people and collections for our show is through spreading the word far and wide so that people know we’re coming to town. We would love to see if your publication would be willing to help us spread the word to your community?
We at American Pickers are still taking the pandemic very seriously and will follow all guidelines and protocols for safe filming outlined by the state. However, we are incredibly excited to continue connecting with the many collectors in the area to discuss their years of picking!
Attached is a press release, a flyer, and some photos that you are welcome to share with your community, individuals, social media, etc. We also have Facebook: @GOTAPICK; you can share our Facebook post by clicking here<https://www.facebook.com/GotAPick/>. Keep in mind, we are looking for different, unusual, and unique items - something we’ve never seen before with an extraordinary story!
Collectors interested in being considered for the show should reach out to us by phone at (646) 493-2184 or email at AmericanPickers@cineflix.com<mailto:AmericanPickers@cineflix.com>. Be sure to have them include their full name, city/state, contact information, and a brief description of their collection.
Also, please note that the Pickers only pick private collections, so NO stores, malls, flea markets, museums, auctions, businesses, or anything open to the public.
My contact info is below, don't hesitate to call me with any questions. Thank you so much for your time!
Meredith Ball Associate Producer | American Pickers Cineflix | cineflix.com
BACK TO BASICS: SUSAN MATTHEWS’ AFRO-CUBANBEAT
by Jonah Raskin
Don’t tell Susan Matthews what she can and can’t paint. An artist with a mind all her own, she has ventured to remote villages in Cuba and met Black folk that few North Americans have known or cared about. And she didn’t go on a Venceremos Brigade. You remember them. Beginning in 1969, and for the next 50 or so years, thousands of North Americans joined a brigade, an offshoot of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). In Cuba, they harvested sugar cane, basked in the sun and enjoyed Caribbean fun. Susan Matthews has traveled to Cuba nearly two-dozen times, connected to Afro-Cuban dancers, musicians and rituals far older than the Cuban Revolution and the Cuban government that has all-too often ignored. Tourists to Cuba have embraced Afro-Cuban culture and helped to keep it alive.
Matthews works in acrylic in her Oakland, California studio, where she creates large colorful paintings which have captivating titles such as “The Women of Dzodze,” “Rumba Taller Gráfica” and “La Caridad de Oriente.” Until the end of October 2022, her work is on exhibit at the Canessa Gallery, not far from City Lights Bookstore on Columbus Avenue. In homage to the members of the Beat Generation—who loved the bongos—and the beat of Afro-Cuban music the show is titled “Back to the Beat.” The largest painting, “Rumba Morena,” represents women drummers that Matthews met in Havana. It’s 72’’ x 54,’’ and priced at $5,000. The drummers seem to fly off the wall and into the gallery itself.
Matthews is neither Cuban nor Black; her ancestors didn’t arrive in the New World from Africa. She and her work embody what an academic versed in Afro-Cuban forms of expression might call “cross cultural fertilization.” During an interview shortly after the opening of her exhibit, Matthews told me, “It didn’t occur to me that I was a white person painting Black people. I was painting the people I met, and the ecstatic energy of their music, dance and culture.”
If every artist and writer today stopped creating, and instead reflected on his or her ethnicity and whether he or she had the right to depict people from cultures not their own, we might not have art and literature. That wasn’t Matthews.
When she had her first exhibit on the theme of Afro-Cuban music and dance in 2000 at Left of Center Gallery in North Las Vegas, African Americans gave her “the green light to keep working on her project.” One woman saw the paintings and told her, “I want to go to Cuba and study dance.”
The deeper she delved into her field of study, the more Matthews realized that the rhythms and songs sung in Cuba were uncannily similar to those transported from West Africa, across the Atlantic Ocean, to the Caribbean as “secrets under the skin.” That phrase comes from a series of multimedia installations that Matthews co-created, and that moved from Cuba to Ghana and from Alaska to Oakland and San Francisco, from 2010-2014. She contributed a chapter in the book, Situated Narratives and Sacred Dance: Performing the Entangled Histories of Cuba and West Africa published by the University of Florida Press in 2021.
Matthews learned that in remote sugarcane towns in Matanzas Province, people knew their lineage, back to first generation Africans. “The elders who preserved the cultural expressions of their ancestors were passing away,” Matthews said. “We wanted to document their world while we had the opportunity. Our intention was to share our work with the rural people we met. My prints went up on walls in homes.
Matthews’ romance with the drum—one of the oldest instruments played by humans—and with drumming and with Black music began in 1976 when she was 22 years old. She and her boyfriend, who played the drums and happened to be Jewish, descended on the jazz and blues clubs on the “chitlin’ circuit,” as it was known, in West Oakland. “We were usually the only white people in the audience,” Matthews said. “The musicians always invited my boyfriend to sit in and play with them.”
At a tiny window, Matthews would order soul food made by local ladies, take a seat and enjoy the show. Matthews remembers that when members of the audience wanted more drumming, they would shout, “Give the drummer some.” James Brown helped to immortalize the concept in his single, “Funky Drummer.”
After she attended and graduated with a B.A. from UC Berkeley in 1979—and later with an MFA from San Francisco State University—Matthews took part in an Afro-Cuban percussion class on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley at La Peña Cultural Center, which was created by refugees from Chile who fled from the military coup engineered by General Augusto Pinochet. That bloody coup overthrew the legally elected government of Salvador Allende. The class helped her along her journey, but she didn’t begin to play her first drum, a conga, until she was 40-years old.
“I loved the feel of it, the sound of it and the sense of rhythm,” she told me. “It was intoxicating.” So was her first trip to Cuba which took place in 1995. That year and in subsequent years, year after year, she began her education in the history of Afro-Cuban culture. Back in the USA, she delved into the culture of her own corner of Oakland, where she painted portraits of many of the people—bartenders, waiters, artists and community members—she met at the Merchants Saloon in Oakland. Matthews sat at the bar and had a drink or two. She didn’t ask anyone if she had the right to paint them. She just did it.
Titled “The 99%,” those portraits of working people—white, Black and brown—came with their names, places of birth, occupations and the locations of their current homes. “The portraits were inexpensive so people snapped them up,” Matthews said. They are as much a tribute to Oakland folks as the “Back to the Beat” paintings are a tribute to the Afro-Cubans in Matanzas Province. These days, Matthews teaches painting at College of San Mateo. “In the classroom I use the methodology I learned from Afro-Cuban drumming,” she explained. “One concept builds on another and you don’t waste the students’ time.”
“Back to the Beat: Old and New Paintings” by Susan Matthews, through October 27, 2022. Artist’s talk and party Saturday October 22, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. To visit Canessa, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays contact Zach Stewart at 708Zach@gmail.com. For more information email Matthews at Sue.Art.Matthews@gmail.coms
TAKE FOR INSTANCE a man driven to incessant work by a sense of deep insecurity and loneliness; or another one driven by ambition, or greed for money. In all these cases the person is the slave of a passion, and his activity is in reality a "passivity" because he is driven; he is the sufferer, not the "actor." On the other hand a man sitting quiet and contemplating, with no purpose or aim except that of experiencing himself and his oneness with the world, is considered to be "passive", because he is not "doing" anything. In reality, this attitude of concentrated meditation is the highest activity there is, an activity of the soul, which is possible only under the condition of inner freedom and independence.
— Erich Fromm
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Nestled between Mammoth Lakes and Lee Vining, the modest lake is just 2.7 miles around and 168 feet deep, with a small public marina. But it draws scores of trout anglers in the warmer months who drop lines from their boats or post up on June’s wide sandy beach to hook meaty rainbows, browns and Lahontan cutthroats.
Evidently, it’s commonplace for at least some fishers to chuck their empty bait jars and beer cans into June’s crystalline waters, because the cleanup crew removed thousands of both — in fact, divers couldn’t retrieve all that they found in the lake due to time constraints. Over two weeks in September, divers with the Tahoe nonprofit Clean Up the Lake removed 6,522 pieces of litter from the lakebed — more than 3,404 pounds — which included 3,071 bait jars and upwards of 1,100 aluminum beer and soda cans, according to the group.
TELL ME AGAIN, HOW WAS I ‘CRYING WOLF’?
by Paul Street
David Barsamian: What we are facing is often described as unprecedented—a pandemic, climate catastrophe and, always lurking off center stage, nuclear annihilation. Three of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
Noam Chomsky: I can add a fourth: the impending destruction of what remains of American democracy and the shift of the United States toward a deeply authoritarian, also proto-fascist, state, when the Republicans come back into office, which looks likely. So that’s four horses.
The Nation, October 11, 2022
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.
Chris Hedges, September 24, 2022
* * *
One of the more darkly amusing criticisms I got from those I labelled the Trumpenleft years ago accused myself and others with the organization Refuse Fascism (on whose editorial board I sit) of “being in bed with the corporate Democrats” because of our supposedly “over the top” and “wolf-crying” description of Trump, his base, Trumpism, and the Trump Republican Party as fascist.
A Fascist in the White House, 2017-21
“Over the top?” “Crying Wolf?” Completed in the early spring of 2021, my latest book This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberal, and the Truming of America details precisely how the Trump presidency and the broader Trump phenomenon exhibited each of the following core and overlapping characteristics of the political pathology that is fascism between 2015 and the January 6th Capitol Riot :
+ Vengeful palingenetic and racialized ultra-nationalism connected to a bitter sense of white victimization and betrayal.
+ Conspiratorial blaming of alleged tragic national decline on purported liberal and left globalist elites said to be promoting inferior, lazy, and criminal races over virtuous, hard-working white heartland/fatherland folk who need to take their country back to make it “great again.”
+ Virulent authoritarianism: contempt for previously “normal” bourgeois electoral “democracy” and parliamentarianism combined with promotion of the rule of force and personality over the rule of law.
+ “Them and us”: the dehumanizing demonization and Othering of racial, ethnic, and sexual enemies who supposed need to be defeated, disciplined, humiliated, and even removed or eliminaated for the suffering white Nation to regain its lost greatness.
+ Promotion of traditional social hierarchy linked to Social Darwinian notions of “survival of the fittest” and to a hyper-masculinist worship of strength and victory.
+ The embrace of political eliminationism: the use of shame, terror, and violence to obliterate political enemies.
+Brazen lawlessness in the name of law and order.
+Cults of divine, messianic, and charismatic personality surrounding a maximalist and almost always male Leader.
+Rejection of previously normative civility, decency, respect, and tolerance for difference.
+ The open embrace of cruelty.
+ Personalized and politicized glorification of the military, hyper-militarism, and bellicose nationalism
+ Savage unreality: relentless lies, falsification, and magical thinking combined with a nonstop propaganda war on truth, science, independent media, intellectuals, and diversity of thought.
+ Obsessive fear and hatred of socialism, Marxism, communism and the “radical Left” combined with the recurrent false conflation of conservative, moderate, and liberal enemies with left radicalism.
+ Fake populism combined with service to the capitalist rich and harm to the poor and working classes.
+ An obsession with national borders linked to raciallized sexual anxiety and the claim that globalist elites are stabbing the once great Nation in the back by “replacing” virtuous white homeland folk with swarthy, dangerous, and inferior Others.
+ Fear and demonization of racially, sexually, culturally, and intellectually polyglot cities understood as malignant threats to the racial and moral purity of the rural and small-town heartland, home to the noble racial stock behind the past and potentially regained greatness of the Nation.
+ Militant patriarchy upholding women’s “traditional” roles and subordination.
The Donald “Chosen One“ Trump administration and its supporters checked all the boxes (read the first three chapters of This Happened Here for a detailed record of the many ways in which this was trye)
Any doubts about the Amerikaner fascism at the heart of Trump and Trumpism should have been removed on January 6th 2021 when Donald “Take Down the Metal Detectors Cuz the Guys with the AR-15s Don’t Want to Hurt Me” Trump and his inner circle of deranged putschists (including openly fascist Proud Boys, Three Percenters, and Oath Keepers and numeous other white guys carrying Confederate flags) tried to …well, overthrow previously normative bourgeois electoral democracy and establish the orange-hued reptile as a de facto dictator atop world history’s powerful and dangerous nation.
Nothing “Semi-” About It
Here we are nearly six years out from Donald “I Alone Can Fix It“ Trump’s 2016 election, twenty-one months from Trump’s attempted Capitol Hall Putsch, and seven weeks after even the longtime conservative “reach across the aisle” Democrat Joe Biden felt compelled to tell some Democratic donors in Maryland that the “Republican” party had been taken over by something “like semi-fascism.”
Terrorizing Archivists, School Nurses, Poll Workers, and Librarians
There’s nothing “semi-” or (apologies to Chomsky) “proto-” about it. Members of the Republi-fascist/Amerikaner base now regularly harass, hound, target, dox, troll, and otherwise threaten teachers, nurses, doctors, children’s hospitals, school officials, school board members, elected officials, election officials, public health workers, poll workers, librarians, library board members, judges, district attorneys, rabbis, epidemiologists, immunologists, archivists, and other professional and public workers, including even law enforcement officers. Four in ten “Republicans” think political violence is legitimate if necessary to “protect America” from the supposedly “radical Left” (try corporate and imperialist) Democrats.
Talk of Civil War and White Replacement
At a recent Hate Rally rally in Michigan, Trump’s fellow demented QAnon fan Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (Rf-GA) said that “Democrats want Republicans dead,” adding that “Joe Biden has declared every freedom-loving American an enemy of the state.” That’s classic far-right and “paranoid style” rhetoric on steroids.
Last August, Frau Taylor Green referred in a social media post to the FBI’s belated and warranted search of Trump’s Mar a Lago estate – in search of classified government documents that Trump feloniously stole and failed to return – as “the type of thing that happens in countries during civil war.” The openly fascistic lunatic Taylor Greene has nearly 900,000 follows between Facebook and Telegram.
The repellent Republifascst Senator Ted Cruz (Rf-TX) recently told The Texas Tribune that immigration legislation was unlikely because it would cause a “political civil war.” This was consistent with his November 2021 call for Texas to secede “if Democrats destroy the country.”
Michael Flynn, the fascist January 6th coup plotter who briefly served as Trump’s national security advisor (and who Trump pardoned for lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts) recently told a Republican fundraiser that US state governors can and should “declare war” on the federal government.
The New York Times reports that right-wing social media references to and calls for “civil war” (long standard in far-right online spaces) have skyrocketed over the last two months. The FBI’s so-called raid on Mar a Lago and Biden’s reference to “MAGA Republicans” as a “like semi-fascis[t]“ threat to American democracy has set off a firestorem of rage on the far-right dark web. Neofascist “cival [sic] war” prattle has gone viral there. It shows no signs of abating as the mid-term elections draw nearer. According to the Times:
“Social media platforms are rife with groups and boards dedicated to discussions of civil war. One, on Gab, describes itself as a place for ‘action reports,’ ‘combat vids’ and reports of people killed in action in ‘the civil war that is also looking to be a 2nd American Revolution.’ In August, a single tweet stating ‘I think civil war has just been declared’ managed to reach over 17 million profiles despite coming from an account with under 14,000 followers…”
Republi-fascist politicos have been advancing white supremacist and historically fascist “great replacement theory,” according to which a globalist conspiracy of Jewish elites is trying to replace supposedly virtuous, superior, and hard-working white people and culture – the real soul of the once great (but soon to be redeemed) nation in fascist thought – with allegedly lazy, inferior, and criminal non-white immigrants. The openly demented language-butchering and woman-abusing Trumpist Herschel Walker is sickeningly close to the eloquent liberal Raphael Warnock in polling for the critical US Senate race in Georgia. We have learned that the fascist Trump confidant and January 6th coup plotter Roger Stone said this to his Proud Boys acolytes after the 2020 presidential election and before the January 6th Capitol Riot: “fuck the voting, let’s get right to the violence.”
Fascist-Nativist “Political Stunts”
Two Republi-fascist governors (Texas’s Greg Abbott and Arizona’s Doug Ducey) have for many weeks been tricking and packing Latin American asylum-seekers onto buses and contemptuously dumping these desperate migrants like human garbage in Washington DC, Chicago, and New York City. Florida’s “mini-Trump,” the Mussolini-mimicking governor Ron De Santis has committed much the same sadistic crime with a chartered airplane and a different “enemy” (liberal “sanctuary”) destination – Martha’s Vineyard.
The callous heartlessness of these vicious nativist “political stunts” (try fascist crimes) is staggering. How far is this despicable conduct from loading demonized Others into boxcars headed for concentration camps?
Dog Whistles Gone Stochastic and Blood Libel in an Armed Madhouse
The biggest immediate threat may be what academic students of right-wing extremism call “stochastic terrorism” — outwardly random violence sparked by “coded language, dog whistles and other subtext“ in the rhetoric of Republi-fascist public figures including the expert dog caller Trump. The tangerine-tinted tyrant has shown himself quite skilled when it comes to triggering violence this way. His April 2020 tweet saying “Liberate Michigan!” helped elicit an occupation of the Michigan state capitol by an assault weapon-bearing right-wing mob within two weeks. His call for the neofascist Proud Boys to “Stand Back and Stand By” during a September 2020 presidential debate with Biden helped spark violent Proud Boy rampages in Washington DC after the 2020 election. His Jan. 6, 2021 statement that “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore” helped fuel the violence at the US Capitol that day. “The statements Trump makes,” the Times notes, “are not overt calls to action, but when you have a huge and devoted following, the chances that one or more people are activated by that are high.”
The threat of both organized and more anarchic “stochastic” far-right violence is grossly amplified by the nation’s tragic marination in a bloody sea of lethal firearms. The United States is home to at least 400 million guns and rifles, more than one per person, including 20 million military-style assault weapons. The Armed American Madhouse’s guns and especially its AR-15-style weapons are very disproportionately concentrated in white male Republican hands, regions, and states.
Going from dog whistle to dog trumpet, Trump now openly identifies with the neo-Nazi blood-libel QAnon cult and joined his fellow white supremacist Lindsey Graham in warning that prosecuting the former president for any of many egregious felonies will lead to large-scale bloodshed in the streets. Trump has decided to fill out his fascist profile more classically with some not-so subtly anti-Semitic posting
QAnon claims that the “Marxist” Democrats are running a global pedophile ring. It calls for Trump’s immediate physical restoration to power and the public televised execution of top Democrats, who QAnoners accuse of drinking children’s blood. These are the beliefs of a wild neo-Nazi cult that has been given a big nod of approval by a former US president who is one of the nation’s two viable political parties’ 2024 presidential frontrunner.
Collapsing Constitutional Rule from Within
Meanwhile, the Republi-fascist agenda is moving ahead through outwardly constitutional means. Fueled by the persistent Big Hitlerian Lie that the 2020 election was stolen – a deception that would make Joseph Goebbels blush and that is backed by seven in ten “Republicans” – the nation’s fiercely rightmost major party is moving not merely to suppress and gerrymander minority votes but to cancel aggregate state-level popular votes in the next presidential election. It has elaborates plan to staff the federal executive and legislative branches with fascist operatives deep into the federal bureaucracy. The Amerikaner Party of White Nationalist and Christian Fascist Revenge (the “Republicans”) already has the Supreme Court and much of the state and federal judiciary. Driven in part by demographic fears of coming white minority status and raking in cash from revanchist dark money billionaires whose power to shape elections is protected by the high Court, they are looking to achieve triple-branch consolidation and never let go.
The Republi-fascist Party has cancelled the Congressional careers of the small number of “Republican” US House members who still believe in “small-r” republican checks and balances and constitutional rule of law. The post-republic “Republicans” are running election-deniers for office in twenty-seven states in this year’s November elections. The Republi-fascist’s roster of Big Lie candidates includes far right activists up for key state-level positions with power over election supervision, counting, and certification (governor, attorney general, secretary of state) in key contested states. A fascist Oath Keeper, Mark Finchem, is in place to become Secretary of State in the critical swing state of Arizona. A malevolent Christian white nationalist who went to Washington DC to “Stop the Steal” on January 6th, Doug Mastriano, is on the Republican ticket for governor in the big and contested state of Pennsylvania.
The Trump-crafted Supreme Court is poised to build on its last arch-reactionary session (highlighted by the vicious sexist reversal of women’s half-century constitutional right to an abortion) by: further crippling the Voting Rights Act (already on its last legs thanks to previous right-wing Court rulings); taking more power away from the Environmental Protection Agency (whose right to regulate carbon emissions the miliantly anti-democratic high Trump Court recklessly and insanely cancelled last June); signing off (in More v. Harper) on red state legislatures’ capacity to nullify popular votes (under the reactionary “independent state legislature theory”) in the next presidential election.
The nine public hearings in which the US House January 6th committee has this year skillfully demonstrated Trump’s attempts to subvert and cancel the 2020 presidential election have done little to impact the nation’s politics. False assertion and serial Hitlerian deceit trump evidence in the nation’s perilously right-tilted Minority Rule political system. The (far-) rightmost of the two major parties stands poised to win back at least the House of Representatives and to place right-wing election deniers in key positions enabling the “far-right” to (with likely advance approval from the Christian Fascist Supreme Court that is 33% Trump appointed-for-life) steal the 2024 presidential election for “strongman” Trump (or for Florida’s mini-Mussolini Ron DeSantis or some other fashed-up “strongman”). The openly demented language-butchering and woman-abusing Trumpist Herschel Walker is sickeningly close to the eloquent liberal Raphael Warnock in polling for the critical US Senate race in Georgia.
So, please, Trumpenlefties do tell me more about how my early sense of Trump and his backers as fascist was “over the top” and “crying wolf.”
In Bed with the Dems? Seriously?
The charge of being friendly to the corporate imperialist Democrats is equally absurd, Speaking for myself, it is hard to imagine a single radical Left writer and speaker to whom the charge of Left surrender to the Democrats has less applicability. My relentless and detailed Marxist critiques of Barack Obama and the Obama phenomenon produced no less than three books, an anti-Obamanist trilogy covering the before, during, and after of the neoliberal Obama presidency: Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Routledge, 2008), The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power (Routledge, 2010), and Hollow Resistance: Obama, Trump, and the Politics of Appeasement (CounterPunch, 2020). My radical assault on Obama and Obamanism goes back to late July of 2004, when I penned a biting assessment of the nationally narcissistic capitalist-imperialism at the heart of Obama’s instantly famous, career-making speech to the Democratic National Convention in Boston (see my “Keynote Reflections” here).
The first of my three Obama volumes predicted the dismallly neoliberal-corporatist and imperial trajectory of the Occupy-crushing, Citigroup-protecting, and drone-bombing Obama presidency. It warned among other things that the nation’s 44th president would open the door to a lethal right-wing ascendancy posing as “populist.” (imagine that)!. Prior to that book, I wrote dozens of reasoned radical attacks on the fake-progressive and neo-Clintonite imperialist Obama at Black Agenda Report, ZNet, and Z Magazine. In addition, my 2014 book The Rule: The 1% v. Democracy placed the Democratic Party’s captivity and allegiance to concentrated wealth and power at the heart of a wide-ranging analysis of on how the U.S. ruling class disastrously rules.
So, please, Trumpenlefties, tell me again how I’ve been “in bed with the Democrats.”
But enough about me. The same goes for Refuse Fascism (RF), whose founders were longstanding revolutionary-communist critics of the Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama presidencies and of the capitalist-imperialist Democratic Party more broadly. From Trump’s election on, RF portrayed the Dems as deeply complicit in the rise and power of the Republi-fascist Party. RF ripped the nation’s not-so leftmost major party for failing to properly name the fascist beast and for refusing to undertake anything remotely like the popular resistance required to slay the monster. RF consistently criticized the bourgeois-Democratic Party of passive resistance for its conservative bourgeois-electoralist enablement of the Republi-fascists. It called from the start for Trump’s removal through popular rebellion – and end to business as usual – in the streets and public squares. It called for a militant mass politics beneath and beyond the savagely time-staggered big money-major media-major party candidate-centered electoral extravaganzas that are disastrously sold to the masses as the only politics that matters — and that take place within the killing confines of a Minority Rule party and elections system tilted far to the right of majority opinion.
RF called for mass protests not just to get rid of Trump but to set new terms in US-American political life. New terms set by popular anger and mobilization. New terms that would discipline not only the rightmost major party but also the dismal dollar-drenched Democrats. New terms that would point towards a deeper confrontation with the capitalist-imperialist system that gives rise to fascism in the first place.
RF’s call for people to vote out the lethal fascist Trump in the fall of 2020 represented no retreat from a militant commitment to social movement and revolutionary politics in the streets, only a tactical acknowledgement of the need for some breathing space from the relentless pandemicidal madness of Trump and Trumpism atop the powerful US executive branch. RF spent the weeks between Biden’s election and January 6th trying to get Democrats to take seriously the well-telegraphed threat of a Trump coup. “In bed with the Democrats” it was not.
1. For an 18-point breakdown of the Trumpenleft strain (a shockingly real and to me at-first surprisingly widespread thing on what passes for “the left” in the US), see the subsection titled “Trumpenleft Denialism: Eighteen False Narratives” in my book This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America, pages 173-181.
2. Last August, MSNBC’s leftish Sunday night host Medhi Hasan held forth as if he was one of a very tiny circle of thinkers able to correctly identify Trump and Trumpism as fascist. He proudly noted having made this identification in the summer of 2020, when Trump was trying to deploy the US military to crush the George Floyd protests. “I’ve been talking about fascism almost nonstop on this network for almost two years now,” Hasan said on show six weeks ago, “since Donald Trump called for troops on American streets to ‘dominate’ Black Lives Matter protests. Since he called on violent racist Proud Boys to ‘stand back and stand by’ prior to the 2020 presidential election. Since he refused to accept his big loss in that election and helped incite the violent January 6th insurrection. But now I have a little more company,” Hasan said, referencing Joe Biden’s late August 2022 reference to the “MAGA Republicans” as “semi-fascist[s].” Never mind that Refuse Fascism was formed in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s election in early November of 2016. Never mind that the present writer and numerous other radical and liberal commentators properly recognized Trump and Trumpism as fascist with empirical and theoretical rigor from the very beginning, well before the summer of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake, and Kyle Rittenhouse. Never mind that dozens of young Iowa City residents occupied Interstate 80 while chanting “no Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA!” three days after Trump’s 2016 electin win. Hasan’s slight is characteristic of mainstream media’s refusal to take seriously radical thinkers who are typically far ahead of that media’s not-so leftmost commentators – people like Hasan and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. The official invisibility imposed on actually radical Left thinkers is why nobody in mainstream and even left-of-mainstream media (i.e., The Nation and Democracy Now!), would pay the slightest attention to my 2007-08 book Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics, a meticulously researched and richly annotated history and analysis of Barack Obama’s political career and world view that predicted the entire tragic course of the Obama presidency and its terrible aftermath, including the ascendancy of a revanchist far-right “Republican” president posing as “populist.”
(Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).)
A TINY JOKE
Upon learning that Donald Trump lied about the size of his apartment in New York:
He: “As a man, it’s just embarrassing that another man is caught lying by the simple expedient of using a tape measure.”
She: “Is that a tiny dick joke?”
He: “There is absolutely no reason for me to be embarrassed by the size of my joke. It is perfectly adequate.”
Musk rouses ire of national security machinery, ho-hum nuke talk progresses, a journalist and tons of crabs disappear, Liz Truss outlives fruit flies, three finance headlines, and more
Just when you thought it might be safe to lay out in the sun for a mellow weekend, after one of those work weeks that glides uneventfully along a peaceful river of non-terrifying news events, social media explodes with yet another horrifying headline. After years of hints that grand showdowns may be coming in both the areas of censorship and nat-sec authoritarianism, word leaked Friday that an ultimate test case might just be arriving. Details on that story, and more, on America This Week.
Reminder: you can listen to a podcast discussion between Walter Kirn and me, Matt Taibbi, about the stories by clicking here: taibbi.substack.com/p/episode-10-america-this-week-with#details
UKRAINE, FRIDAY, 21ST OCTOBER
Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of planning to blow up the Kakhovka hydro-electric dam on the Dnipro River, a step that would unleash a devastating flood across a large area of southern Ukraine.
What is the Kakhovka dam, is it about to be blown and what impact would that have?
Significance Of The Dam
* The dam, 30 metres (yards) tall and 3.2 km (2 miles) long, was built in 1956 on the Dnipro river as part of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant.
* It holds an 18 km3 reservoir which also supplies water to the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014, and to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which is also under Russian control.
* The volume of water in the reservoir is about equal to the Great Salt Lake in the U.S. state of Utah.
* Blowing the Soviet-era dam, which is controlled by Russia, would unleash a wall of devastating floodwater across much of the Kherson region which Russia last month proclaimed as annexed in the face of a Ukrainian advance.
* Destroying the Kakhovka hydro-electric power plant would also add to Ukraine's energy woes after weeks of Russian missile strikes aimed at generation and grid facilities which Kyiv said have damaged a third of its country-wide power network.
* Sergei Surovikin, the commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, said on Tuesday he had information that Ukrainian forces were preparing a massive strike on the dam and had already used U.S.-supplied HIMARS missiles of a major strike, he said, could be a disaster.
“We have information on the possibility of the Kyiv regime using prohibited methods of war in the area of the city of Kherson, on the preparation by Kyiv of a massive missile strike on the Kakhovka hydro-electric dam,” Surovikin said.
Ukrainian officials said the allegation was a sign that Moscow planned to attack the dam and blame Kyiv.
* Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Thursday that Russia had mined the dam and was preparing to blow it, a step he compared to the use of weapons of mass destruction.
“I informed the Europeans today, during the meeting of the European Council, about the next terrorist attack, which Russia is preparing for at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant,” he said. “Destroying the dam would mean a large-scale disaster.”
Blowing the dam, he said, would also destroy the water supply to Crimea and thus show that Russia had accepted that it could not hold onto the peninsula.
Kirill Stremousov, the Russian-installed deputy head of the annexed Kherson region, said Kyiv's allegations that Russia had mined the dam were false.
THE NEW AXIS OF EVIL — Made in America?
by Robert Wright
This week media coverage of Russia’s use of Iranian-made drones—and possibly, down the road, other Iranian weapons—reached such intensity as to raise a question in the mind of Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler. “How soon before we start using ‘axis of evil’ again?” he tweeted on Tuesday.
It’s hard to get ahead of the curve these days, and by the time Kessler suggested this label for the Russia-Iran partnership, the label had already been applied by, among others, a British tabloid, Ukrainian protestors, and not one but two senior fellows at the Atlantic Council.
And the New York Times, without using the phrase, devoted a whole piece to the “emergence of a Moscow-Tehran alliance”—thus making the “axis” part of the label more or less official and paving the way for God-knows-how-many others to affix the “evil” part in the coming weeks.
The Times piece had the virtue, at least, of conveying that the Russian-Iranian collaboration is a marriage of convenience, not part of a global autocratic plot to smother democracy, and that its motivation is largely defensive. “There is no deep love” between Iran and Russia, the Times piece observed. “The two authoritarian governments, both chafing under Western sanctions, share a view of the United States as their great enemy and a threat to their grip on power.”
What the Times piece didn’t do is explore the question of how these countries came to see the US as their great enemy. So it didn’t shed light on the perennial question: Was all this really necessary? Or might a different US foreign policy have led to a world in which Iran was in no mood to send Russia weapons, and maybe even a world in which Russia had no current use for them?
Certainly if Iran’s economy weren’t being smothered by a US-led sanctions regime, Tehran would have less incentive to sell weapons it probably considers precious. And of course, if the US hadn’t withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal under Donald Trump—or if a more proactive Biden State Department had gotten the deal restored during the administration’s first year, before the political climate worsened—there would be many fewer such sanctions.
But to imagine a world in which US-Iran relations are fundamentally different, and fundamentally better, you need to do a thought experiment that goes back much further than the Trump administration. So too if you want to imagine a world where Russia’s relations with the West make an invasion of Ukraine unlikely in the first place.
As of autumn in 2001, prospects for a warming of relations with both Russia and Iran seemed good. Vladimir Putin was the first world leader to call President Bush after the 9/11 attacks, and after the US invaded Afghanistan in October, Russia provided America with valuable battlefield intelligence. That invasion also crystallized a convergence of America’s and Iran’s interests: Both countries considered the Taliban a threat. Accordingly, Iran helped the US both on the battlefield and in the diplomacy that established a new government.
George W. Bush, meanwhile, set about dimming prospects for enduringly improved relations with either Iran or Russia.
In January of 2002 Bush declared that Iran, along with Iraq and North Korea, was part of the… yes, the “axis of evil.” And this stance toward Iran persisted. In 2003, after a Swiss ambassador conveyed to the US Iran’s interest in improved relations, complete with bullet points about Hezbollah and Israel-Palestine, the idea intrigued the State Department but got no further than that. Lawrence Wilkerson, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s deputy, later recalled that he and Powell "thought it was a very propitious moment." But "as soon as it got to the White House, and as soon as it got to the vice president's office, the old mantra of 'We don't talk to evil'... reasserted itself."
And as for rapprochement with Russia: Two months after Putin’s 9/11 phone call, Bush informed Russia that the US would abandon the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty—something Putin had implored Bush not to do and something virtually no serious nuclear strategist thought was in America’s interest anyway.
This was far from the last thing the US would do that Putin considered both a national security threat and a sign of disrespect—and that mainstream US experts considered stupid. But many of these—including the momentous decision to invite Ukraine to join NATO in 2008—have been noted previously in this newsletter, so here we can save time by just giving you a few NZN links. Like this one and this one and this one.
So too with Iran: Space doesn’t permit a detailed list of US actions that were one-day stories in America but that deeply and enduringly antagonized the Iranian leadership. Highlights include: the 2010 Stuxnet attack (the rare cyberattack that actually destroys physical stuff and so is unambiguously an act of war); the brazen and illegal 2020 assassination of Iran’s most important military commander, Qasem Soleimani; and of course the aforementioned sanctions, many of them punishment for Iran’s doing things that regional US friends, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, do as well.
Obviously, we’ll never know whether a less antagonistic US foreign policy would have led to a better world. It takes two to tango, and both Russia and Iran have done provocative and antagonistic things over the past two decades.
If you want to tell the story in a way that emphasizes those provocative and antagonistic things more than the provocative and antagonistic things America did, you can do that. In fact, that’s the way the story usually gets told in America.
One reason for the success of this asymmetrical narrative is that a lot of “philanthropic” money goes into “think” tanks whose experts steer the American media toward it. For example, in a 2017 piece I wrote for the Intercept called “How the New York Times is Making War with Iran More Likely,” I highlighted the role of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the ultra-hawkish think tank that could be renamed, not inaccurately, the Foundation for Attack on Iran.
This week, inevitably, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies made its presence known. A CNN piece on the Russia-Iran collaboration, for example, quoted an FDD analyst reminding us that Iran, in sending weapons to Russia, is “moving some of its most accurate, some of its most precise ammunition closer to Europe. It is critical to see Iranian involvement with Russia as part of its larger war with the West.”
Yes, critical. And critical never to see things the other way around.