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Mendocino County Today: Sunday, June 4, 2023

Sunny Warm | Seniors Jump | Mystery Substance | Wild Pea | Deputy Sanchez | Teeter Clarification | Stump Flowers | Ed Notes | PO Garden | GO Chat | Split Leaf | Reparations | Yesterday's Catch | Bridge Walker | Heart Matters | Reynolds Hwy | Marco Radio | Grad Gowns | Hook Mitchell | Lasorda's Son | Big Picnic | Stupid Populism | Happy 40th | Killing Blacks | Wild Mushrooms | Violent Crazies | Ukraine | Writing Alone | Camera Girl | Readers | Le Guin Story | Cartooning

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INTERIOR TEMPERATURES will continue to warm today with the hottest valleys reaching the mid 90s. Meanwhile, weak stratus will quickly clear along the coast. Scattered thunderstorms will arrive for the interior early this weak followed by cooling temperatures and, most likely, a deeper and more resilient marine layer. (NWS)

STEPHEN DUNLAP (Fort Bragg): On the coast this Sunday morning the fog might be a little thicker, we'll see if it survives beyond sunrise. 49F so far. Today will be another beauty then turning cooler into the new week with our 20% of showers hanging on for Tuesday & Wednesday.

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by Justine Frederiksen

An unknown substance that caused at least five people to fall ill Thursday afternoon led to a partial closure of the Adventist Health Ukiah Valley emergency room, the Ukiah Valley Fire Authority reported.

UVFA Battalion Chief Eric Singleton said the incident began around 4:15 p.m. June 1 when two people in a building at 260 Hospital Drive began feeling sick after handling paperwork. When they went across the street to the emergency room, “taking the substance with them,” he said that three more people subsequently fell ill.

Singleton said all five patients reported feeling “dizzy and light-headed” when near the substance, but “fortunately, after no longer being near it, they are all feeling fine.” He said the substance was contained, and it was not believed to be a threat to the community.

As of 5:45 p.m., Singleton said about “three-fourths of the ER is still operating,” and he did not expect that to change. However, he said that anyone not in urgent need of care should avoid the 200 block of Hospital Drive.

When asked for more details about the substance, Singleton said tests were being conducted to determine what it is, and that he could not rule out it being Fentanyl.

He said the paperwork in question had not been mailed to the building, but apparently dropped off at 260 Hospital Drive. He said his efforts to contact the person whose paperwork it was had been unsuccessful.

Along with the UVFA, personnel from Hopland Fire and Cal Fire were at the scene, as well as the Redwood Empire Hazardous Incident Team, or REHIT.

At 8:30 p.m., Singleton said that all areas of the hospital and other buildings had been deemed safe and the UVFA was clearing the scene. As for determining what the substance was, he said that all testing was inconclusive Thursday.


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Wild Pea Flower (Jeff Goll)

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ANDERSON VALLEY FIRE DEPARTMENT: Isaac Sanchez successfully graduated from his law enforcement academy and will be serving here in Mendocino County. He started serving the community as a high school cadet with AVFD in 2016. After high school, he continued his education, volunteered locally and deployed on many wildfires throughout the state over the years. He's always been a great firefighter, so we know he'll be just as good serving the public as a Peace Officer. Stay safe out there, Isaac! Thank you for your service!

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Several local Fire Departments and School Districts have become concerned after we reported last week that Supervisor Williams had suggested that the County withdraw from the complicated property tax distribution plan known as the Teeter Plan. 

We rechecked the video of the meeting. In fact, Williams didn’t suggest it; he supported it and approved the idea in concept. 

The discussion was initiated at the Tuesday, May 23 Board meeting after Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector Chamise Cubbison suggested that the Board consider revisions to the Teeter Plan because some tax payment installments are expected to come in late, and that the County would then “carry the expense of that interest.” Cubbison said normally “we would Teeter that,” and so she “didn’t want to do that this year.” She recommended that “we [the County] Teeter it based on the installments, not just sending out 100% right now.” “We are talking about school debt, school districts, and whether the County is prepared to carry that burden,” said Cubbison.

Supervisor Gjerde immediately responded that he wanted to “reduce the risk that the Teeter Plan poses to the County’s general fund.”

County Counsel Curtis then said that if the County changed or withdrew from the Teeter Plan the “ultimate recipients” — i.e., Schools and Special Districts — “would no longer get their revenue on a set schedule. … Revenue would come in as collected, rather than paid up front.” Volatility would be shifted off of the County and to the “ultimate recipients.” 

Williams then said he agreed with Gjerde and that “this shift may drive us to better support the Assessor’s office. If Special Districts and schools are getting paid irregardless [sic] of whether we collect, we don’t have the same stakeholder engagement in forcing the County to collect taxes. Part of the reason I support it is the greater good here is that people who do pay taxes deserve to get the services that would be available if everyone were to pay. The great injustice is that there are parcels that have not been paying in for extra houses and yet they are on the same roads, using the same schools as the tax evaders. A lot of people are fed up with it. I think this shift in the approach to Teeter may help drive that conversation.”

NO MATTER WHO “suggested” the change or “shift,” the concern expressed by some school districts and fire departments is valid. No change to the way property taxes are distributed should be considered until those “ultimate recipients” of the funds are consulted. The County needs to address the Teeter Plan problems and their tax collection processes, not shift the “volatility” to schools and special districts.

PS. In 2013 a Board agenda item related to the Teeter Plan arose when dozens of unsalable Brooktrails parcels were creating a Teeter Plan deficit. The item was written by former Budget Officer Kyle Knopp: “The County’s Teeter Program authorizes the distribution of property tax assessments without regard to the actual collection of tax payments,” said Knopp. “The County Auditor-Controller pays out the full assessment to all taxing entities even when certain properties become delinquent. The County benefits through use of its taxing authority leverage to liquidate tax-defaulted properties and eventually collects late assessments plus any interest, penalties and fees associated with such delinquencies. However, when these properties are no longer marketable either due to reputation or actual fair market value (properly and openly disclosed to potential buyers), the Teeter program becomes a County General Fund liability that can no longer be sustained.”

In 2017 then-CEO Carmel Angelo wrote: “The County is required to maintain a Teeter Fund reserve to provide funding to taxing entities, regardless of delinquencies. The Teeter Fund reserve protects the General Fund in the event of an additional property tax decline and recession that would require additional funding.” (This is the Teeter fund reserve that the County proposes to spend $500k of to help balance next year’s budget.)

Apparently, the Auditor’s initial concern came from an inadequate Teeter reserve this year, meaning that the County would have to pay out the Teeter obligations at 100% of assessed value to Schools and Special Districts resulting in a loss of interest income due to the gap between Teeter payments and late or delinquent tax payments. 

(Mark Scaramella)

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(photo by Larry Wagner)

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A USEFUL BOOK by then-occasional Valley resident Moira Johnston is called Spectral Evidence, a salutary account of the awful hysteria inspired by an evil neurosis called “recovered memory,” which is also a fascinating account of the dangers of crackpot therapy, an especially pertinent cautionary tale for Mendoland where it seems like every third person is some variety of “healer.”

THE BOOK is a painful account of a very wealthy and attractive family, seemingly on top of the world in a conventionally superficial American way, but with all kinds of psychological termites gnawing away at the family foundation. 

THE LATENT family psychosis finally expresses itself when one of the daughters, seeking help for an eating disorder, went to a Masters of Social Work (MSW) therapist who also happened to be a fundamentalist Christian (we’re not talking scholarship and sophistication here) who talked the young woman into “recovering” memories of her clearly innocent father having molested her. Even the family dog got in on the perv-a-rama according to one particularly twisted recall dredged up by a helping professional, who obviously had some odd sexual preoccupations herself. 

MOM RAMONA is an attractive blonde whose husband, Gary, is an executive with the Mondavi Winery pulling in half a mil a year when his and his family’s world collapsed courtesy of Therapy Land. Pop worked hard and was gone a lot. Mom did nothing but play tennis, enjoy a clothes allowance of many thousands a year, fritter an equivalent amount on her hair and general physical maintenance, and generally live the life of a decorative Napa Valley sybarite. 

ALL POP seemed to want was for Mom to look good at wine fests. He also seemed to love her and, in a bumbling, touching but totally naive way, was devoted to what he thought was his perfect family which, unfortunately for him, came complete with a maternal mother-in-law straight out of the Borgias. You don’t have to be a psychologist to figure out that this woman’s daughters felt enormous pressure to look like their showcase mother, hence the craziest daughter’s bulimia. (She’s now a therapist herself, of course.) 

THE THREE RAMONA GIRLS — terminal ingrates, every one of them — enjoyed trips to Europe and every other extravagant indulgence yup pups are born into these days. There was no hint of in-family weirdness as the girls grew to maturity and none substantiated when pop had had the courage to take the incompetent therapists who’d basically destroyed his family into court. 

MR. RAMONA was the first person in the entire country victimized by “recovered memory” to sue the bastards. 

AUTHOR JOHNSTON’S impartiality is absolutely scrupulous throughout, in a carefully researched book amounting to an important public service, putting the lie to what amounts to an hysteria equivalent to the Salem Witch Trials (where spectral evidence was finally disallowed when the hysteria reached into a local big shot’s household) and as a cautionary tale of the dangers of stupid and malicious therapists, of whom there are literal thousands in California. 

RUMMAGING through a box of old bummers, I retrieved this three-page ad from a New York Times:

“Let’s see now. What’s a simple way for business people to understand the difference between the two companies Monsanto is becoming? For 96 years, Monsanto has been known as one of the world’s leading chemical companies. But now we’re spinning off our chemical businesses. To focus on the business of life sciences. Our commitment is to provide better food, better nutrition, and better health for all people. We’re dedicated to developing breakthrough products that link the fields of agriculture, food, and medicine. Like insect-resistant crops. And innovative treatments for life-threatening diseases. At Monsanto, our future is about fulfilling people’s hopes. Hope for environmentally sustainable solutions. Hope for a healthier planet. That’s how we’ll be growing in the century to come.”

TRANSLATION: One company, Monsanto, will make herbicide (Round Up) and the other will spray it on GE crops. Absent some reliable testing service, we will all be eating more glyphosate. 

AND THIS ONE: We reported on this hideous episode at the time, assuming that the Adventist medical combine would elude murder charges for the death of 11-month-old Cody Burrows of Lake County. Which it did, initially. Dr. Wolfgang Schug was the on-duty emergency room doctor at the Adventist-owned Redbud Hospital in Clearlake, on February 23rd, 1996 where the tragedy began.

DR. SCHUG had treated the Burrows infant for an ear infection. But the baby got worse, suffering from constant diarrhea and vomiting. The Burrows brought their suffering boy baby back to Redbud three times in as many days; each visit saw the child in worse shape. On the final desperate visit to Schug and Redbud, the young parents were handed a road map to what is now called Sutter Medical Center in Santa Rosa, nearly an hour and a half from Lakeport. 

THEIR DYING BABY dumped by the Adventists, his young parents drove frantically to Santa Rosa where alarmed doctors received the dehydrated child and shipped him immediately off to UCSF for specialized treatment. (Or also dumped him.) But it was too late and Cody died in San Francisco. 

TWO YEARS LATER, Dr. Schug was arrested and charged with second degree murder, charges that were eventually dropped. The doctor posted bail of $75,000 and went back to work at Redbud where he is today, I’m told. 

ALTHOUGH ADVENTIST hospitals, and other for-profit medical complexes, of course deny that their ER doctors steer difficult, i.e., no- profit-in-it-for-us-patients to public hospitals, but they do.

THE ADVENTISTS finally settled for $750,000 when testimony revealed that Schug had failed to rehydrate the infant, a mind boggler of dereliction, I’d say.

BETSY CAWN NOTES: Viz. Adventist Corp, I am in pretty close contact with an insider at the Adventist Hospital Clear Lake, and have been observing the changes since the old guard was deposed by the new young bucks a few years ago. AHCL is the only hospital in the “region” (in this case, part of the “Napa” region, not the mostly-Mendo division) that has actually made money, substantial amounts of it (“not-for-profit” status notwithstanding), but the new kinglets fired the CEO who brought all of the successes to this hospital for the last decade or so and reduced the local operators back into their subservient fiefdom roles. One consequence has been the rise of tribal health service empires — but the lack of primary docs, local basic specialists, and overall poor health status of Lake County’s population has rendered the community hostage to the yupscale Napa board of directors. Adventist combine, indeed.

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Special Fort Bragg City Council hybrid public hearing about Grocery Outlet this Monday, June 5 at 5:00 PM at Town Hall

All of this second hand BS said to be posted by someone Leslie Kashiwada without stating who this person is, what her qualifications are and who exactly is funding her....and these "studies"

Sam G

Leslie is a highly educated scientist who has lived in the area for a long time. I know her to be a person of integrity. No one is "funding" her; she is a concerned local citizen.

Daney Dawson

I'll be there. We need another affordable option for grocery shopping here. This past year has been so tough financially on so many.

Jasmine Diaz

The Food Bank is the best place for affordable groceries. No one is turned away. They also have a Senior Box for those who are Seniors. They have a free clothing closet and many other household items free. You can go twice a week and "shop" for what you need and or can use. They have lots of locally grown produce. Canned goods that aren't out of date. Dairy and meat and cheese. For those who say we need more affordable groceries, you can't get much more affordable than the Food Bank. FREE.


I just now make too much for food stamps, I've used the food bank in the past and they're amazing but since I have a steady income I don't always feel great about utilizing the food bank while others have much less. There should still be another less expensive option, and some variety. Sorry.

Jasmine Diaz

I totally agree with Jasmine

Sam G

I absolutely agree with Jasmine as well. Remember when sleepy Joe wasn't our president and the prices of everything weren't triple what they are now.... Gosh I miss those days. Pre Covid, people were alive in this town. Sleepy Joe comes in and nobody knows what TF they're talking about anymore. We need alternatives to Safeway and Harvest. But not preferably where there are no stop lights. But, in this town. They don't necessarily answer by facts. Safeway has already paid the city council out in my book.

Paul Stanley

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(photo mk)

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Recently the state’s Reparations Commission reported its findings to Gov. Gavin Newsom. It was a years’ long study which mainly centered on wrongs endured over decades primarily by the Black American community throughout the State of California. By so-called “red lining,” as openly prejudiced hiring and other social processes, African Americans have suffered deeply.

However the Commission almost totally excluded California Indians from its study report. During the so-called “contact period,” roughly from about the 1820s-30s until approx. 1925, California Indian tribes were decimated first by smallpox, murders, forced marches, genocide, persecution, and destructions or attacks to their hunting thru destruction of the natural habitat. Mercury poisoning and pollution of the state during the Gold Rush, appr. 1848 thru 1870 left a trail of destruction unmet in scale until the more recent annual wildfires.

In 2005 someone named Frank H. Baumgardner, III published a book, which took over twenty years of research to write. Its title is “Killing For Land In Early California; Indian Blood At Round Valley Founding,” the genocide facts were two with the surnames Carranco and Beard. Guilt is a meaningless, pointless emotion. In Indians have casino revenge.

Frank H. Baumgardner, III, Author 

Santa Rosa

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CATCH OF THE DAY, Saturday, June 2, 2023

Bara, Chandzul, Cook, Fischer

JENIFER BARA, Ukiah. DUI, leaving scene of accident with property damage.


THOMAS COOK, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol&drugs. (Frequent flyer.)

JOSIAH FISCHER, Laytonville. Disorderly conduct-alcohol&drugs.

Foreman, Frease, Gonzalez

CHRITINE FOREMAN, Mendocino. Probation revocation.

ANGELA FREASE, Covelo. Failure to appear.

MINDY GONZALEZ, Hopland. Controlled substance, possession of drugs in jail or fire camp, failure to appear, probaation revocation.

Hoaglin, Hughes, Pritchard

FOX HOAGLIN, Willits. Controlled substance, resisting, failure to appear.

WHITNEY HUGHES, Ukiah. Vandalism, shopping cart, paraphernalia, probation revocation.

GABRALLIA PRITCHARD, Willits. Domestic battery, disorderly conduct-alcohol.

Sawyer, Tipton, Vasquez, White

DYLAN SAWYER, Fort Bragg. Vandalism. 

SHAUNA TIPTON, Laytonville. Shoplifting, controlled substance, paraphernalia, petty theft, no license. 


NORMAN WHITE, Ukiah. Controlled substance, no license, failure to appear.

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IT'S SATURDAY, June 3rd, and who comes walking across the Greenwood Bridge?

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Postmodern America: Going Nowhere, Bankrupt, Dope Crazy, Insane.

Awoke at the Building Bridges Homeless Resources Center, with an ambulance incoming for an unresponsive individual in a bed. This was precluded by the usual gathering of drug dealers and their customers in front of the building, and across the street at Fentanyl Row. Morning ablutions completed, got dressed, ate some food, and then walked to the Ukiah Food Co-op for a coffee. Caffeinated, ambled on to the library, reflecting on the complete absurdity of taking a doctor prescribed water pill (with a potassium supplement, of course) since early April, which lowered blood pressure insignificantly. Every restroom in central Ukiah, behind large bushes, urinating less and less substantially over a month and a half, for the sake of blood pressure maintenance, which isn't a serious problem anyway. Obediently took the original prescription, plus the refill. And so I ask: Am I doing my part to enrich Big Pharm and the American Medical Association? 

Aside from awaiting a scheduled teeth cleaning at Adventist Health-Ukiah on June 16th, (in which I will actually get something from all of this), there is the as of yet unscheduled appointment at Adventist Health-St. Helena for a change of the Medtronic Pacemaker, for an ICD: implantable cardioverter-defibrillator. Please note: "An Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator (ICD) is a device that detects a life-threatening, rapid heartbeat. This abnormal heartbeat is called an arrhythmia. If it occurs, the ICD quickly sends an electrical shock to the heart. The shock changes the rhythm back to normal." The problem for which the pacemaker was installed in late February of 2022, was for a slow heart beat. Currently, the heart is functioning at 20%, which the cardiology department says is much too slow. Can anyone tell me how this ICD device makes sense, since it is designed to address a too rapid heart beat? 

Saw an apartment in central Ukiah yesterday which is affordable, by utilizing the federal housing voucher, etcetera. Put in an application with the help of a Building Bridges Housing Navigator. I may end up living in Mendocino County awhile, but do not ask me why. I just know what I spiritually am, and beyond that, I wouldn't wipe my rear end with the face of this war junkie of a civilization. 

Sitting here now at the Ukiah Public Library listening to the original recording of Srila Prabhupada chanting the MahaMantram: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare 

Yours for Self Realization,

Craig Louis Stehr

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Reynolds Hwy, Willits (Jeff Goll)

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"Much butthurt I sense in you. Cry like a bitch, you should." -Yoda

Here's the recording of last night's (2023-06-02) eight-hour-long Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show on 107.7fm KNYO-LP Fort Bragg (CA) and

Email your written work on any subject and I'll read it on the very next Memo of the Air on KNYO.

Besides all that, at you'll find a fresh batch of dozens of links to not necessarily radio-useful but nonetheless worthwhile items I set aside for you while gathering the show together. Such as:

As long as there is at least this little girl in the world, it can't be that the whole world is crazy.

Sazz Leonore's version of Fever.

Rare video of The Bobs singing Fever in 1991. No sound reinforcement; no mics but the one in the camera. That's Janie Bob in the front. They came to Mendocino in 1988.

And “My children will never watch Youtube.”

Marco McClean,,

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DEMETRIUS ‘HOOK’ MITCHELL: The Playground Phenom

Accolades: Featured in Hooked: The Legend of Demetrius "Hook" Mitchell

Demetrius "Hook" Mitchell, a West Coast legend hailing from Oakland, captivated the basketball world with his extraordinary talents. Growing up alongside renowned point guards like Gary Payton and Jason Kidd, Hook stood out as the West Coast equivalent of the legendary Earl "The Goat" Manigault.

Despite standing at just 5'10", Hook possessed astonishing leaping ability, wowing spectators by dunking over cars during playground dunk contests. While he briefly played in college, Hook struggled to distance himself from drugs and a life of crime, leading to two incarcerations.

The documentary "Hooked: The Legend of Demetrius 'Hook' Mitchell" chronicles his days on the Oakland playgrounds, where he etched his name in basketball folklore. Even players of the caliber of Kidd and Payton believed that had Hook made it to the NBA, he had the potential to surpass their own achievements.

Demetrius "Hook" Mitchell's story serves as a reminder of the transformative power of basketball and the challenges that can hinder one's journey. His immense talent, coupled with personal struggles, has left an indelible mark on the annals of streetball history, capturing the imagination of fans and fellow players alike.

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While many would — and DO — dismiss The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence — gays having years ago been given the right to Marry… AIDS Epidemic over… In America as long there’s that right to have a religion (tax-free) we have the right (First Amendment) to mock that religion. Tommy Lasorda, the Father of all Modern Dodgers, had an openly gay son, like MUMU. Gay! The love and acceptance Lasorda showed his kid was remarkable. Up and thru his son’s death from AIDS.

— David Svehla

PS Are we talking about The same Catholic Church here?

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by Caitlin Johnstone

Republican politicians have found a way to reconcile the fact that scrutinizing the behavior of the US war machine appeals to their base and wins votes with the fact that the Republican Party is built around facilitating war and militarism at every turn. Their solution? Pour mountains of energy into championing the case that the nation’s military has gotten too “woke”.

Because everything in mainstream American politics is geared toward channeling the public’s political attention down channels that pose no threat to the rich and powerful, and because the United States is the hub of a globe-spanning empire that is held together by mass military violence and the threat thereof, it was only a matter of time before we started seeing the war-weary sentiments harnessed so effectively in Trump’s 2016 presidential run diverted into scrutinizing the military in ways that pose no obstacle to US warmongering.

Republican congressman Chip Roy published a press release on Thursday declaring that he has “called on Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to provide a full accounting of the department resources that will be used to impose woke gender ideology on America’s men and women in uniform during the month of June.”

“It has come to our attention that the Department of Defense (DoD) will once again divert American families’ tax dollars away from advancing its mission to ‘deter war and ensure our nation’s security’ to the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) events during the month of June 2023,” Roy wrote. “Expending vital resources on this type of political maneuvering, most apparent during the month of June, is inconsistent with the national security interests of the United States and is an inexcusable use of taxpayer dollars.”

Sure, Chip, that’s what’s been causing all that vital resource expenditure in the US military: the promotion of diversity, equity and inclusion. Can’t possibly have anything to do with all that extremely expensive military equipment you’ve been moving into every corner of the earth now, can it?

Probably worth mentioning at this point that the debt ceiling agreement reached between President Biden and House Republicans insisted on only non-military cuts to spending and increased the US military budget to $886 billion, which GOP leaders have already slammed as “inadequate”.

Republicans everywhere are committing to this bit where they pose as brave populist heroes who aren’t afraid to challenge the US war machine by spouting gibberish about how the Pentagon is being too accommodating on LGBT issues. Last week Congressman Matt Gaetz made a big show of opposing the complete non-issue of “drag shows on military installations,” then took to Twitter the other day to proclaim a “HUGE VICTORY” when an air force base drag show was canceled.

During an interview on Fox News last week, Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis was asked by Trey Gowdy how he would respond to the war in Ukraine on day one of his presidency, and he started babbling about wokeness and gender ideology.

“Well first, I think what we need to do as a veteran is recognize that our military has become politicized,” said DeSantis. “You talk about gender ideology, you talk about things like global warming, that they’re somehow concerned and that’s not the military that I served in. We need to return our military to focusing on commitment, focusing on the core values and the core mission.”

Which is, needless to say, not an answer to the question. It’s just a bunch of soundbytes designed to sound critical of the military and appeal to right wing sensibilities without actually saying anything meaningfully critical of the US proxy war in Ukraine.

Trump himself got in on the action at a Fox News town hall event on Thursday, gibbering in his signature incoherent manner about “the woke” in the US military and how it poses an obstacle to their fighting “bad people”.

“You know, our military is great. A lot of things going on with our military with the woke and all this nonsense,” Trump told Fox News pundit Sean Hannity. “They’re not learning to fight and protect us from some very bad people. They want to go woke. They want to go woke. That’s all they talk about now. I see letters that are being sent. It’s horrible.”

An April article by virulent anti-China propaganda rag The Epoch Times titled “Can a Woke Military Win Wars?” claims that America’s leaders “have injected the entire menu of radical ‘woke’ ideology into the tissues of the military establishment,” placing new recruits at risk of being “catechized by anti-American Marxists or apostles of sexual exotica.” It decries environmentalism, anti-racism and anti-bigotry in the military, before taking a moment to fearmonger about how Xi Jinping is “preparing for war” as though China would ever attack the US unprovoked.

This idea that “wokeness” is hurting the US military’s ability to prepare for war with China has been gaining momentum in right wing punditry for a while now. Back in December 2021 a Rush Limbaugh wannabe named Jesse Kelly turned heads by proclaiming on Tucker Carlson Tonight that the US war machine needs men who want to “sit on a throne of Chinese skulls” rather than being accommodating to female and gay personnel.

“We don’t need a military that’s woman-friendly; we don’t need a military that’s gay-friendly,” Kelly said. “We need a military that’s flat-out hostile. We need a military that’s full of Type-A men who want to sit on a throne of Chinese skulls. But we don’t have that now.”

Last year Republican Senator Marco Rubio repeated the same talking point, saying “We don’t need a military focused on the proper use of pronouns — we need a military focused on blowing up Chinese aircraft carriers.”

Do you see how fake and stupid this is? Do you see how it lets Republicans posture as strong critics of the US war machine while actively facilitating all its top agendas?

This is a perfect illustration of what right wing “populism” looks like in the 2020s: phony, manipulative talking points geared toward convincing war-weary red staters who lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan to keep supporting war and militarism, but anti-wokely.

And it’s a good illustration of the function that both of the major “populist” strains serve in US politics, both on the Bernie Sanders/AOC “progressive” side and the Trump/MAGA side. Both branches appeal to the anti-establishment sentiments of their respective bases, and then herd their adherents into support for America’s two mainstream political parties — both of which are designed to serve the interests of the same depraved establishment these “populist” factions supposedly abhor.

The oligarchs and empire managers who pull the strings of the US government not only control both parties, they control both of the major factions which purport to fight the mainstream establishment in those parties. It’s a redundant security measure designed to protect the globe-spanning power structure which depends on keeping everyone marching in accord with its interests. They control the opposition, and they control the opposition to the controlled opposition.

Both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are designed to take power away from the people and feed it to the empire. Every attempt to draw you into supporting them is designed to disempower you, even when it flies the flag of “populism” and claims to oppose the same interests you oppose. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to turn you into a tool of the powerful.


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by Ishmael Reed

A growth industry is a sector of an economy that experiences a higher-than-average growth rate compared to other sectors. Growth industries are often new or pioneer industries that did not exist in the past.

Well, lynching Black men is nothing new, except in the past, the lynchers didn’t get paid. Maybe the local economy thrived when families attended lynchings in a carnival atmosphere. Souvenirs were sold. The taverns were filled. Perhaps a piano player playing Theodore A. Metz’s “There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.” Photographers who snapped photos of tourists posing next to the lynched got paid. But the average lyncher in those days did it for kicks. You see white men and women often in the company of their children, leering, grinning, and smirking up a storm as a smoking Black corpse is swinging above them.

Contrast those who in the old days lynched for free with Kyle Rittenhouse, who raised 2 million for a defense fund. He killed two demonstrators. Daniel Penny, the killer of Jordan Neely, has broken that record. As of May 19, Penny had raised $2,668,372. He’s pleading self-defense even though he grabbed Jordan Neely from behind. Ron DeSantis, who has been poking about looking for something Black to run against, like a desperate Las Vegas gambler traveling from slot machine to slot machine hoping for an avalanche of quarters, raised two million for Daniel Penny, the right’s new matinee idol.

The old Southern Demagogues of lore used the N-worth to win elections. They were true populists. At one time, George Wallace and his wife lived in a converted chicken coop.

Using the N-word is too uncouth for DeSantis. He prefers to signify Blacks by using code words like Woke, an idea attributed to Black novelist William Melvin Kelley who used the term in 1962. That’s because DeSantis went to Harvard and Yale, which also graduated Steve Bannon and a member of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, who was convicted for his manic antics on January 6.

Bret Stephens also has an excellent education. University of Chicago, the London School of Economics. He uses his Times column to vent his rage about Black people without fear of rebuttal. To him, we’re all anti-Semites who live in San Francisco. Yet, I don’t know of a single Synagogue shot up by Black people, nor did I see Blacks among the marchers shouting the Jews Will Not Replace Us.

So it was no surprise that he would side with a vigilante. He defended Penny. About the victim, Jordan Neely, he wrote:

“Very scary. He was a person who had been arrested more than 30 times. He had punched an elderly woman in the face. He had exposed himself and peed inside a subway car. He had walked out of a residential treatment program. There was a warrant for his arrest at the time of his death — but cops probably wouldn’t have found out about it because a group sued to stop the police from detaining people solely to check for arrest warrants. He was the sort of guy who made the subway frightening for a lot of passengers, particularly women. People ought to know these facts before rushing to judgment.”

It doesn’t occur to Stephens that antipsychotic medication and residential treatment centers are useless when treating some people with schizophrenia and that there is a difference between the way middle-class white schizophrenics are treated and the Black and the poor, who are loaded up with medication, some of which is toxic. As for the mentally ill unable to fulfill their commitments, they don’t have a receptionist to remind them of their appointments or a car service to drive them there.

For CounterPunch, I wrote about how one drug company with full knowledge of toxic side effects put a drug with dangerous side effects on the market. They paid $6000 to every victim as a result of a class action suit. My daughter used this drug, Zyprexa. It led to her acquiring a bad case of diabetes. I am sure this drug contributed to my daughter’s death, even though she had a five-star support system, unlike most Black and poor people. Nothing worked. The voices never ceased. She died at 60, leaving behind a novel and two novellas in which she would describe her condition. Stephens hasn’t studied the disease that I was required to review.

I found Stephen’s old Black Boogeyman trope about Jordan Neely as a threat to women to be hypocritical. The Times rehired a writer named Glenn Thrush, who was fired from coming on too strong to women. Is Stephens going to write a column about it?

Deceived by William Barr’s spin on the Mueller report Stephens said the Democrats should apologize to Trump, whose assault on women is well known. Moreover, when will the Times identify the complete list of 999 guests at Jeffrey Epstein’s townhouse, among the most powerful men in the world, including Bill Gates?

Danny Cevallos, CNN’s legal analyst, is smart, too. Danny is a University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Notre Dame Law School graduate. He just about delivered pro bono services to Penny’s defense team, advising them about how the vigilante can get off. Nikki Haley praised the vigilante’s actions. Under pressure after having dismissed the confederate flag as no big deal, she changed her mind after the killing of nine church members by a “replacement” nut. But she hasn’t abandoned her support for one of the Confederate’s favorite past times: Lynching Black men.

In the old days, lynchers were paid very little. In his 1756 Declaration of War against the Lenni Lenape people, Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Hunter Morris said, “For the scalp of every male Indian enemy above the age of 12 years, produced as evidence of their being killed, the sum of 130 pieces of eight . . . for the scalp of every Indian woman produced as evidence of their being killed, the sum of 50 pieces of eight.” But expect more to sign up for Vigilante services now that big bucks can be made. Some of them might be former bounty hunters. They’re only making about $50,000 per year. Why should they risk their lives when they all have to sneak up from behind a Black man and squeeze out his life? Only 15 minutes of work.

Penny’s defense lawyers say that $50,000 was his client’s amount from small donations alone, revealing the cruel sludge in the heart of segments of the settler population, which Donald Trump tapped. Penny has the looks that might land him a movie role or a job with the new CNN News. The media introduces him as “a Marine and college student.” For the media, Jordan Neely is a homeless bum who danced and talked loud on the subways. Of course, Jordan Neely was beautiful, but given Hollywood’s lack of diversity, his moonwalks would never have been accepted there.

Copycats are lining up to make their fortunes in a Gold Rush of killing, or should we call it A Black Rush? But now, donors to Rittenhouse and Penny face a dilemma. The latest vigilante is a Chinese American. Rick Chow. He killed 14-year-old Carmack -Belton, mistaking him for a shoplifter. Shot him in the back. Will the right make him rich as they have the white vigilantes?

Ishmael Reed’s play, “The Conductor,” about the role of right-wing billionaires and their minority surrogates in the San Francisco recall elections, in will enjoy a second run at the Theater for the New City. The link for those who wish to make a tax-deductible contribution is:


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Banning guns might or might not lessen violent acts. But either way, this won't stop the large number of murders committed by other means. Putting focus only on banning guns, keeps us from addressing the most important factor: why do we have so many violent crazy people out there and how do we prevent, treat, or stop the violent crazies. 

Disclaimer: I only am speaking from a standpoint of logical analysis. I have never and would never own a gun and I don't advocate others owning guns. 

* * *


A top Ukrainian commander says Russia is suffering “significant losses” around the eastern city of Bakhmut, where the Wagner private military company has handed over positions to Russia's military.

A Russian attack wounded at least 20 people — including five children — outside Dnipro, a regional leader said. The attack is the latest in a flurry of reported Russian assaults.

Meanwhile, officials in western Russia are reporting more Ukrainian drone attacks and shelling as the war spreads beyond Ukraine's borders. Kyiv has not commented on the claims.

Ukraine is ready to launch a counteroffensive, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

* * *

I HAD BEEN DOWN IN MADRID in May working by myself and I came by train from Bayonne to Juan-les-Pins third class and quite hungry because I had run out of money stupidly and had eaten last at Hendaye the French-Spanish frontier. It was a nice villa and Scott had a very fine house not far away and I was very happy to see my wife who had the villa running beautifully, and our friends, and the single aperitif before lunch was good and we had several more. There was going to be everything that a man needed to write except to be alone.

— A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway 

* * *


Before she was an iconic first lady, Jackie was a clever “Camera Girl.”

by Maureen Dowd

I think about Jackie Kennedy several times a day.

I have no choice.

Tour groups come by my house in Georgetown to see John Kennedy’s bachelor pad, where he was living when he met Jacqueline Bouvier at a dinner party.

I eavesdropped at the window once and heard a tour guide spin the romantic yarn about how the handsome senator met the beautiful debutante and they decided to live happily ever after. Somewhere else. “Jackie told Jack he needed to get out of this dump,” the guide said. “By the time he was elected president, they were living in a beautiful house down the block, which we’ll go see now.”

As a tonic to the coarseness of Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, I have been escaping to the cultured world of Jacqueline Bouvier in the period when Jack was diffidently courting her. (Never a Heathcliff type, Jack sometimes treated her, as Jackie once told Gore Vidal, as though she were a campaign asset, like Rhode Island.)

Carl Sferrazza Anthony’s new biography, “Camera Girl,” offers a lovely snapshot of Jackie’s single years in D.C., working at The Washington Times-Herald.

In 1951, Jackie, who had just graduated from George Washington University with a degree in French literature, joined the paper as a gofer, answering the phone and fetching coffee. Her wealthy stepfather was friends with Arthur Krock, the Washington bureau chief of The New York Times. Krock called Frank Waldrop, the executive editor of the Washington Times-Herald, and asked “Are you still hiring little girls?” because he knew a “round-eyed, clever” one.

Waldrop would recount the story many times after Jackie became an icon. When she came to meet him, he bluntly asked her, “Do you really want to go into journalism, or do you want to hang around here until you get married?” Jackie, who fantasized about being a famous writer, replied, “No, sir, I want to make a career.”

He emphasized that his paper was not a waiting room for aspiring brides. “I’d seen her type,” he would later say. “Little society girls with dreams of writing the great American novel, who drop it the minute they find the great American husband.”

As Anthony recounts, Jackie was so charming, witty and eager that eventually Waldrop gave her the “Inquiring Photographer” column, which none of the men wanted. Paying $25 a week, it was a six-days-a-week column where she would ask people a question and snap their pictures with a bulky Speed Graflex. She drove a black Mercury convertible with a red interior that she “stole” from her dashing dad, Black Jack Bouvier. She called it Zelda — because, like Zelda Fitzgerald, “she was an unreliable beauty.”

Jackie was guarded — “simultaneously overt and covert,” as Anthony put it. It was hard for her to approach strangers. Sunglasses and a big camera were her shields.

She had moxie. At the door of the Washington Senators’ locker room, she asked players about their hitting slump. Then they snapped their losing streak, and Jackie was hailed as a good-luck mascot.

J.F.K. once called her fey, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “displaying magical, fairylike, or unearthly qualities,” as if you’d had breakfast with a leprechaun.

The format suited her. She could display that whimsical side and even draw cartoons for the column. Waldrop gave her a byline and renamed the column “Inquiring Camera Girl.” John Husted, her fiancé for three months in 1952, dismissed it as “an insipid little job,” but Jackie would later say she “loved every minute.”

She won over gruff male colleagues who had been skeptical of her finishing school ways. One reporter was so impressed, he offered to take her to an execution. She relished provocative questions: “Would you rather have men respect or whistle at you?” “What would you talk about if you had a date with Marilyn Monroe?”

She asked truck drivers, shouting to them when they stopped for a red light, “What do you think of Dior’s spring fashion line?” At times, Anthony said, questions reflected anxieties about Jack: “The Irish author, Sean O’Faolain, claims that the Irish are deficient in the art of love. Do you agree?”

She did not hesitate to ask esoteric questions — “In ‘The Doctor’s Dilemma,’ George Bernard Shaw asks if it’s better to save the life of a great artist who is a scoundrel, or a commonplace, honest family man. What do you think?” And she did not talk down to working-class subjects, recalling that she sought out “salty” characters.

That’s probably how she found my larger-than-life dad, who was a D.C. police detective in charge of Senate security.

One night he came home and told the family that The Herald’s Inquiring Camera Girl had approached him in the Capitol but he had been called to his office and couldn’t answer her question.

Her name, he said, was Jacqueline Bouvier.

* * *

* * *


by Matt Taibbi

Per a reader request, Racket is going to start creating separate transcripts just for the literary discussions in “America This Week.”

In this episode, Walter Kirn and I talked about Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” an unnerving story about a perfect society that’s fueled by the secret suffering of one child.

Walter Kirn: This is the story from 1973. It’s extremely short, as you and I said before the show. It’s almost like the outline or the treatment for a short story rather than a short story in itself. And it describes without a lot of specifics, a wonderful society in which everybody is happy. It’s summer, they’re preparing for their summer festival. It’s like Lake Wobegon where it was said to be, “All the children are above average, peace reigns, happiness...” We’re told that there is no guilt in this society, that one of the secrets to its happiness is no one feels any particular guilt about anything. And Le Guin hesitates to describe the society specifically because she knows all readers have different ideas of what a happy world would be. And she says, “Well, just insert your vision of what a happy world is.”

If she says, “If you need orgies in this world, if you need to believe that everybody’s sexually liberated and having a great erotic time, imagine that. Whatever it is you need to imagine in an ideal society, go ahead.” That’s a strange move in a story. Usually, the writer takes that on herself to come up with a specifically inspiring world. She says, “Just imagine anyone you like.”

It’s like a hypnosis tape that says, “Go to a relaxing place from your youth. I don’t care what it was. Just go to one. You get to choose.” And then she, after luring you in by this hypnotic prompt to imagine a completely serene and cheerful society where there’s no black, there’s no guilt. There may even be orgies that you get to be the most beneficial participant in, she says, there’s one problem with the society. It all depends on the suffering of a little child who’s kept in a basement, kept off to the side in this compartment that she’s never allowed to leave.

The child doesn’t get any sunlight, barely gets any food, is covered with sores, sits in its own excrement and just is miserable 24 hours a day. But it’s only one child, and though everybody in the society knows that their happiness is, in a way, the negatively contingent on this child’s unhappiness, they all get used to it. Because in the utilitarian analysis, for many to be happy at the expense of one tiny miserable child that isn’t even seen that often, who wouldn’t take that?

Matt Taibbi: And surrounded by mops.

Walter Kirn: Yeah. She’s in a mop closet, the child. Who wouldn’t take that deal? And for anybody who believes in the utilitarian analysis of society, I guess, that’s not a problem. But for anybody who doesn’t, it might be. And so the reader is just basically confronted with this notion of a happy Disney society that has no problems except for this secret of a suffering child on whose unhappiness everybody else’s enjoyment depends.

Matt Taibbi: It reminded me a little bit of The Picture of Dorian Gray:

Matt Taibbi: There’s a passage:

They know compassion, it is the existence of the child and their knowledge of its existence that makes possible the nobility of their architecture, the poignancy of their music, the profundity of their science. It is because of the child that they’re so gentle with children. They know that if the wretched one were not there sniffling in the dark, the other one, the flute player could make no joyful music as the young riders line up in their beauty for the race in the sunlight of the first morning of summer.

We hide away in the attic our secrets and our monstrousness, and that’s what allows us to have this superficial happiness. The difference between this story and the Wilde story is that it doesn’t come crashing down in the end, some monstrous moral lesson, that’s just the way it is. But this idea that happiness is predicated on somebody else’s secret suffering, that’s pretty creepy and disappointing.

Walter Kirn: And that the happiness of the collective is dependent on this misery of an individual. But there are many such stories, and I think a lot of them came out in the early ’70s, frankly. I don’t know if you remember The Wicker Man, the movie where this island off of Scotland has this festival where they sacrifice someone to a sun God every year so that the crops will grow… We had The Lottery in which a random person is chosen in this little village to be stoned to death to keep the cycle of agriculture and social peace running. But this story is different than all those in that it doesn’t involve a sacrifice. It involves the ongoing suffering of someone, and I think that makes it particularly apt for our era of cancellation, in which we don’t sacrifice somebody and have this cathartic ritual going back to early mankind in which we somehow get all of our anger and jealousy out in one scapegoating. Like I say, that’s a common trope. It goes back to the golden bow and all these other studies of mythology. It goes back to the New Testament.

And in those stories, there’s somehow a magic that comes of the sacrifice, but in this story, it’s that often some corner obscurely in a way that and cannot deny there is misery. It’s ongoing misery, and that misery is somehow mystically the support structure for your happiness. And it asks the question, the story, would you be able to be happy? 

Would you be one of the festive enjoyers of the summer festival? Or would you be, as in the title, one of the people who walks away from this society? And at the end of the story, she says, for some reason, it’s hard to imagine why, and we don’t really have insight into their processes, their thinking.

Some people can’t deal with this, and they walk away, they leave the place. I can’t imagine what society they’re imagining, what do they think the better world they’re going to is? But there’s something about this arrangement that they can’t countenance. And these stories are morally simplistic in some ways. The reader is always invited to imagine that they’re the one person who wouldn’t throw a stone or would walk away from the society whose secret sustenance was the misery of an imprisoned child. But the good stories ask us whether or not we really are not the heroes at all.

They ask us whether, in fact, we are currently abiding in a society which depends on unseen misery, which we all secretly know about, and we’re not walking away. And as a metaphor for the world now, I think it’s a pretty good one. Every day that you go to buy your Starbucks or every day that you log on to Netflix, you know that a bomb is falling in the Ukraine. It might be a bomb put there by the evil Putin, or it might be one of ours. But every day you know the suffering is increasing. You know the people are dying. It was certainly the way it was in the Vietnam era when this story was written. We had that searing picture of the napalm child or whatever sitting out on maybe railroad tracks or something.

Matt Taibbi: The running girl.

Walter Kirn: Yeah, running girl. Well, that one too. There was also a baby on a train track. And maybe that wasn’t Vietnam era, I’m confused. But we had the running girl. She wrote this story at precisely that time. We also in, the early ’70s, were very aware of Anne Frank, the little girl who’d been hidden throughout World War II. It was a heroic story, but at the same time, the image of a child imprisoned while adults go on about their business, I think, had unconscious resonance in that period. What would it be now?

Matt Taibbi: We all know that we’re getting iPhones for cheap, but that’s because you got 13-year-olds somewhere in China or Indonesia who are making parts for pennies in the dollar. We’re all aware that somewhere in the world people are working in atrocious conditions to deliver us the goods and services that we use every single day, and that we order conveniently through Amazon painlessly with no human interaction whatsoever. And on some level, all of us are aware that not too far away from us, in most cases, there are families that are going to bed every night and they’re dividing up a cheeseburger into five parts to feed their kids or whatever it is.

Once you get people to accept all the fact that this is going on all around us, it’s just overwhelming you. There’s a limit to how much you can think about all these things. And once you stop, I think that’s when we become the good citizens of Omelas. That acceptance of our culpability is it becomes part of a secret compact for the rest of the world.

Walter Kirn: But what’s great about the story is that it doesn’t allow the reader or the hypothetical citizen of Omelas any outs. You see, we can tell ourselves that the child laborers making the tennis shoes that we’re right now running down the street in our suburb using is temporarily yes, suffering, but their whole economy is being brought up. It’s at an early stage and everything’s going to get better in Cambodia or wherever it is once more investment comes in. It’s a temporary state.

We can tell ourselves that a war going on will end and, “Anyway, it’s a war we didn’t want and so don’t blame us.” But in the story, she’s very uncompromising and stipulating that this child will never be released, will never be happy, and there is no way to construe this child’s predicament except as permanent and absolute. And you are not allowed any of the rationales or any of the fantasies that we use in life to excuse away the suffering that may underlie our prosperity or our peace. It says you have to be able to deal with it. And it seems that most of the people in her society have. Remember, she goes on very early about how there’s no guilt. Most people have somehow conquered any guilt response over this predicament. And I think in that sense it does what literature does that the news can’t in that it makes a very pure pristine case for this quizzing feeling that we have that real life situations don’t, because they always offer us an out, a rationale.

In Omelas, there’s no way you can pretend this kid’s going to grow up happy or this is happening to them because they were bad, or they come from the wrong group or whatever.

Matt Taibbi: The news teaches us to blame suffering on an outgroup.

Walter Kirn: And in that sense, the news has a consolatory function. In other words, it allows us all to believe that the terrible things about our world are temporary, justified, part of a process, inevitable, et cetera, so that we don’t have to feel bad about. The news tells us that wars are somebody else’s fault, that economic suffering is often transitional or transitory, or is the result of bad people and bad rulers that we’re going to get rid of. And insofar as the country is in a moral panic, and it’s in about 10 of them right now, we tell ourselves that canceling people, censoring them, ruining their lives, throwing them into silence and ignoring them is somehow always deserved, part of the engine of progress.

I saw a tweet the other day by a recording artist who somebody had said they didn’t like their song. It was too politically correct. And this guy said, “You’re not the people I want at my concerts anyway. I’m glad this offended you because now I know there’s one less in my audiences.” So our little children locked away now are all there because they were bad. And our media has developed about a thousand ways of convincing us that anybody who’s unhappy or upset or losing out is defective, wrong, politically backwards, socially unacceptable in some way. We can’t just stare at the fact that they exist, that we have constructed a society that depends on losing. We’ve even constructed a media and a discourse, which depends on constantly kicking people out, silencing them, and even villainizing, vilifying them.

Matt Taibbi: That closet is getting a little crowded in the modern landscape. We keep shoving people in there, the number of people who are shoved to the side. This story’s concern with suffering, but there’s also like an element of modern media of just exile where we take people and they’re no longer discussed or they’re un-personed. But the overall effect is the same. It’s the strengthening of this collective at the expense of the individual, the idiosyncratic individual, which coincides with our AI topic, right? I mean, the broad mean stays healthy, unconcerned, guiltless, and then we keep stuffing the ugly human, sore covered human side of ourselves that’s in a mop closet and is really 10 years old but only looks six.

Walter Kirn: The other brilliant feature of this story is that it stipulates the absolute minimum of suffering. It’s only one person, one child, and you don’t see them. It whittles it down to its theoretical minimum and says, “Would you still be content if it were only one?”

Because we live in a world of course where millions suffer. Tens of thousands die. Maybe hundreds of millions are without the resources for thriving. But if it were only one, would you be okay? And the story says most people would be. It’s Buddhist in it that it doesn’t criticize them. In fact, it’s only doubt. It’s about, “Who are these people who walk away? What are they thinking? I can’t quite imagine.”

Matt Taibbi: “Where do you think they’re going?”

Walter Kirn: Is there a better world? Is there a world where they could be a better situation than this? Are they crazy?” Oftentimes in real life, Matt, people come to me and say, “Hey Walt, you got a lot of criticisms of society and politics, and you seem to have a lot of dissatisfaction with the way things run. You don’t agree with the censorship regime, and you think surveillance is a restriction of liberty and the mental freedom of the human being. Yeah, okay, but let’s be real. Could we have our society and all the good things that confers without all these things that you are down on? You’re not a very realistic guy, Walt. In fact, you’re just playing a game because you know down deep that indeed your prosperity, your ability to speak, the computer that you’re talking into right now are all predicated on a certain amount of warfare, suffering, injustice, inequality and so on. You’re trying to have your cake and eat it too…

Matt Taibbi: My final thought on this is just this has been an ongoing theme in a lot the anti-disinformation stuff is that they’re not content to have you sit there in silence and not have an opinion. They’re not content if you quietly express displeasure. They want you actively expressing support for it and showing somehow that you’re on the right track, otherwise you’re accruing negative thoughts, you’re going to end up being demerited according to all these algorithms. And that’s disturbing.

Walter Kirn: To sit it out.

Matt Taibbi: But they don’t want to let you do that. And that’s really troubling that they’re searching you out, not letting you quietly have your own opinion. They want you to make expressions of non-conscious all the time, which is different from what happened even during the Bush years where we had all stories about what went on at the black sites. We had people who protested use of torture and that thing. I think they realized that it’s not good enough to just have those people be an ignored minority. They have to actually be eliminated, I think, in order for this thing to work.

Walter Kirn: I think Abu Ghraib is a great image from reality to parallel the one in the story we discussed. How happy were you with the war on terrorism and how safe we were at home supposedly when you realize that depended on people being hung upside down or having to stand on one foot with a hood over their head? And some people were like, “I’m fine with it,” you know? It is in a way a story about torture and the way it perhaps undergirds normalcy as it were.

Matt Taibbi: And living with it.

Walter Kirn: In real authoritarian societies, totalitarian societies, Kim’s North Korea and so on, there’s often a book that everybody has to be seen reading. Of course, Mao had a book. I’m sure there were books in the Soviet Union that it was good to be seen reading. And maybe in ours it’ll be James Comey’s detective novel. Maybe you’re talking about how they’re not allowing you to just passively not participate, you’ve got to actually get in on the game like those writers who put their blurbs on the cover of Comey’s book.

Can you imagine? How does the writer who said, “Hey man, James, as much as I’d like to put my name on your book, it sucked and I just can’t do it now”? Do you think there was that person? If so, they’re quivering at home right now and/or they are one of the bravest souls alive.

But we are always asked to show tokens and badges of our enthusiastic agreement now. Usually, they’re emblems on Twitter and social media. I think that is a problem. We’re no longer allowed to sit this one out or quietly whisper among ourselves that the band sucks. They want us up dancing, clapping, and nothing less will do.

Matt Taibbi: In Soviet Russia though they had a concept called sovok. It’s a play on words because it means dustpan or dustbin, but it’s also short for a Soviet person. And so a person who is a sovok, it’s a specific personality that was everywhere in Soviet Russia. It’s pretty hard to describe, but it’s like a mass man, mass person. One of the characteristics of a good sovok was they could never shut up. You ran into these people in Russia long after the collapse of communism. It was a protective mechanism because under Soviet times, the person who was quiet and looked to be thinking and pensive about something was suspect. So, the safest thing to be was just a babbling idiot who just never stopped talking and saying platitudes over and over again.

The average Soviet person spoke in just constantly in what they call pogovorki, slogans. Like, “He who doesn’t take risks, doesn’t drink champagne” or “Work isn’t a wolf. You don’t have to chase it into the woods.” You just repeat stuff like this over and over again. And that way people know that you’re stupid, which is safe. Meanwhile, if you’re smart and you’re going home every day locking yourself in your apartment to write Master and Margarita or whatever it is, you’re the person who ends up in the bread truck going to Siberia. So I think there’s an element of that with the net age, it’s just those of us who are constantly expressing their non-thought. Those are the people who succeed, it seems.

Walter Kirn: Well, so there we have a best use case for AI because you’ve just described these meaningless maxims and folks sayings that people would babble out to appear to be harmless and unconcerned with things. I think AI could probably every morning generate a script for people that they could just repeat on social media, like, “This is the average completely bought in non-dangerous citizen speak that you can pour out today.” So I might put in the morning, “What should I tweet today and say on Instagram and maybe even on Substack that will keep the state uninterested in me?” And it’ll say something like, “Well, first tweet — A penny saved is a penny earned.’ At 11:30, write a Substack about how it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. At three o’clock, put up an Instagram of yourself with a puppy that you rescued from the pound and saying he’s doing great. And at seven o’clock sign off by saying, ‘I don’t think Succession could get any better, but after having seen the last episode, I expect this is going to be the War and Peace of our time on TV’.”

And you’ll have completed an entire day of total, banal invisibility to the state. I think AI would be perfect for that job. Mediocrity, after all, Matt, is the safest place to be, especially when the cops are out, you know?

* * *


  1. Steve Heilig June 4, 2023

    I hereby claim “Box of Bummers” for the title of my next album (I mean, if I made one). Thanks, Editor.
    Taibbi always reminds me of the old writing admonition “If I had worked twice as hard, this would be half as long.”
    Johnstone always reminds me of sophomore political science class.
    What’s going on on that Willits highway shot by Jeff Goll?
    (I really enjoy his photos, thanks for those).
    Happy Sunday, now get thee to “church”, whatever that might be for you…
    Ps: in NYTimes, re long list of added charges coming at convicted sex offender/chronic fraudster Donald:
    “A trial or a conviction would not necessarily stop Trump from running for president. He could campaign from prison, as the socialist candidate Eugene Debs did in 1920. Some legal experts believe he could even try to govern from prison, should he win the presidency.”
    – stranger things may have happened, but not so sure…

    • Bruce McEwen June 4, 2023

      I thought, mistakenly it appears, that criminals couldn’t profit from their crimes anymore— not since Norman Mailer’s book on Gary Gilmore? Was I behind the door went they changed the law? What gives?

  2. Marshall Newman June 4, 2023

    Nice to see Moira Johnston’s name in the AVA. She was a acquaintance back in the 1980s. Sadly, she passed away a couple of years ago.

  3. Briley June 4, 2023

    Reynolds highway Willits photo.
    That’s one heck of a speed bump!
    What happened?

    • Stephen Rosenthal June 4, 2023

      It’s not a speed bump. It’s perspective. The photographer took the photo from a low angle near where the road drops and likely curves to the right.

      • Briley June 5, 2023

        Thank you. How fun!

  4. Sarah Kennedy Owen June 4, 2023

    Thanks for the Caitlin Johnstone article about woke vs. war. I really hate the term “woke”, as it is grammatically incorrect as woke is only used properly when saying I/she/he/they “woke up” and to be “woke” is actually correctly phrased “awakened” or awake. “Woke” sounds goofy and illiterate.
    Probably a term made up by Republicans.
    I obviously know very little about the whole subject of “woke” but am appalled at the language used by Republicans hate-mongering against China and war-mongering in general. It would be unfortunate indeed if this rabid language were to grow into a tragic, idiotic (as in “woke”) war.

      • peter boudoures June 4, 2023

        Lots of history behind that “Republican term”

      • Sarah Kennedy Owen June 5, 2023

        Thanks but it does not satisfy my distaste for the word. Leadbelly used the word in the proper context as a slang for awake, I can see that, as it was cultural for him. But as a development of the word into a definition for something that is really everyone’s business, i.e. keeping an eye on authority or “watch your back”, it is highly ironic to sound ignorant when you are trying to educate yourself as to the ways of the powerful and elite.
        Again, maybe Black people feel comfortable with it because of its “etymological history” (and, to be clear, their definition is much narrower or more specific than the general term, as they are really in danger with police brutality specifically, not just from the general malaise of an unjust culture) but appropriating it for such a broad range of issues and for all races and classes of people is clumsy and stupid sounding, which is playing right into the hands of the Republicans. Sorry if that goes against the grain of the always politically correct.

        • Bruce McEwen June 5, 2023

          Aristotle coined the term “amelioration” to describe how the Universe is always improving out of the chaos of the Big Bang and, I expect, it will continue to ameliorate and improve in many ways not yet appreciated by those who may be jostled out of comfortable positions as It expands, despite diatribes by vogue boogie men like JHK &c.

  5. michael turner June 4, 2023

    The executive board that governs Adventist Health statewide is insulated by several layers of administration and largely escapes public scrutiny. Their strategic decisions take place in secrecy. For whatever reason they changed their regional strategy about ten years ago. Though never articulated publicly, the result has been to drive primary care providers from poor rural communities across the State, not just Mendo and Lake Counties. I’ve been in the room with regional administrators that were quite vocal about the unimportance of primary care from a revenue point of view. What got them excited was changing the focus to big ticket items such as advanced imaging, and orthopedic and cardiac procedures. Almost all administrators and many employees belong to the Adventist church. It’s not hard to see that their small community benefits from this strategy while the wider one suffers. There’s now here an epidemic of untreated, even undiagnosed, chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. I would guess that the percentage of the health care dollar that ends up in Adventist coffers far exceeds the amount going towards community care. This is to be expected from a cultish culture where non-Adventists are typically referred to as the “Worldly People”. Michael Turner MD.

    • Chuck Dunbar June 4, 2023

      Thank you, Michael, for the below-the-decks story of how Adventist Health works. It’s almost always discouraging and disheartening to hear how systems allegedly serving the people really work, when you get beneath the fluff and spin they send out for public consumption.

  6. Kirk Vodopals June 4, 2023

    America is in a special club of the high percentage of nutballs. We’re even more special when you throw in our seemingly unlimited supply of nutjobs with guns. We are truly unique

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