Less Hot | Haul Road | Child Drowns | Estate Crystals | ATV Death | Feeding Time | Ed Notes | Noyo Catch | Kaiser Size | Noyo Theater | Henson Caught | Parade Riders | Albion Farmstands | Westport Cliff | Sula Show | Chester Ford | Yesterday's Catch | Cloverdale Fireworks | Ice Man | Garden Report | Boat Tally | Carnage View | Artificial Insanity | Rodeo Rider | Sigh | Extra Money | Cashier | Rainbow Over | Astro Family | Patriot Ellsberg | Jazzing | Online Tracking | Interrogation | Freedom Train | Enron Escort | War Machine | Preferred Customer | Ukraine | Pacification | Last Words | Picnic
DRY, HOT WEATHER will prevail for the next few days. Temperatures will slowly drop back towards normal by mid week. Slightly below normal temperatures for the interior and a return of the coastal marine layer is expected late this week. (NWS)
STEPHEN DUNLAP (Fort Bragg): On the coast this Monday morning I have foggy 52F. On the satellite shot you can see the fog coming back up the coast from the south. Our forecast is for the typical morning fog then clearing later in the day. Summer is here.
YESTERDAY'S HIGHS: Ukiah 106°, Yorkville 104°, Boonville 104°, Covelo 102°, Laytonville 102°, Fort Bragg 74°
MISSING CHILD DROWNS EAST OF COVELO
On Saturday, July 1, 2023 about 8:25 PM, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Dispatch Center received an emergency call regarding a missing 5-year-old child who had been swept down the river, in the area of the 34000 block of Etsel Ridge Road in Covelo. Sheriff's Office Deputies responded Code 3 (lights and sirens) and immediately requested Fire and Medical personnel be dispatched to assist in searching for the child. The child was located by private citizens who immediately began life saving measures for the child. Upon arrival of the Deputies, the life saving measures were being conducted in the ambulance. Unfortunately, even with the best efforts of emergency personnel, the child passed away. This case is still under investigation and further information will be released as it becomes available.
VARIETY OF CRYSTALS AND ROCKS FOR SALE
Variety of prices. 14211 Hwy 128, Boonville. If our sign is out we're open. “Estate Moving Sale.” We'll be open late. Door is closed to keep the heat out so just come on in. Nice and cool in here.
ATV ROLLOVER PROVES FATAL
On Saturday, July 1, 2023 at about 06:00 PM, Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Deputies were dispatched to the 4300 block of Young Creek Road in Ukiah regarding a coroner's case. Upon arrival, Deputies learned the 54 year old female decedent had been involved in an ATV accident while traveling on a narrow trail. The Deputies contacted a California Highway Patrol Officer who was at the scene conducting an investigation into the accident. Sheriff's Office Deputies learned the ATV began to tip over when the decedent jumped out and attempted to stop the ATV from tipping. The ATV fell on the decedent and family members were able to pull the decedent out and transported her to the Ambulance. The Ambulance transported the decedent, but the decedent passed away while being transported. The case is currently under investigation by CHP and MCSO, and additional information will be released as it becomes available.
YEARS AGO, a wine guy told me that roughly half of all the grapes grown in Mendocino County are processed elsewhere which, as the wine guy pointed out, begs the question: Couldn’t a number of fairly well-paying jobs be created here in Anderson Valley and in places like Ukiah and Hopland if more grape processing facilities were built in-County? Olives have caught on, and there’s now a busy olive oil processing plant in Hopland.
A WINERY/BOTTLING OPERATION in Redwood Valley turns grapes into wine, as does Roederer right here in the Anderson Valley. But most grapes not bottled locally are grown on vineyard land owned by outside corporrations or are contracted and sold to out-of-county vintners and trucked outta here for processing.
OLD MYSTERIES are often unfounded mysteries. A recent caller claimed that County investigators had looked into a drowning death, which occurred at the old Clearwater Ranch (Philo) in February of 1976, and had found no evidence to support a claim by a Clearwater grad that the death was not accidental but the deliberate murder of an autistic child by a member of the staff who was bathing her. But even the most far-fetched allegations get a look by the Sheriff’s Department because one can never be too sure that a crime hasn’t been committed. The authorities simply don’t write these reports off but make an effort to discover the truth regardless of the obstacles or unhappy repercussions.
PRINT READERS are diminishing by the day, our numbers replenished only by the occasional home-schooled child who, when he or she reaches our age, will likely be regarded as a curiosity in the same way the Amish are, with their famous Amish refusal to capitulate to the electronic deluge or the modern world generally. You print dinosaurs probably need no reminder that the Anderson Valley Lending Library at the Boonville Fairgrounds is a living oasis, Tuesdays 1:30-5pm and Saturdays 2-4pm.
THE LAST TIME I had to resort to a Have-A-Heart trap for stray cats, I snared a skunk. Which presented me with the tricky problem of freeing the troublesome little critter. Slow as skunks are in maneuvering themselves into position to spray, when they’re confined to small space there’s no way to simply open the trap door to let them walk out. You’ll get hosed down for sure. Skunk spray, incidentally, is a unique shade of lime green and quite beautiful, as I discovered in the long process of removing a skunk from my Have-A-Heart. And my skunk had a seemingly endless reserve of his liquid armor, which he kept up in my general direction for a couple of minutes while I admired the display. Finally, I threw a tarp over the trap and maneuvered the cage with a ten-foot bamboo pole to where the trap’s gate would open on its own, and the skunk, having been turned upside down a few times, finally sauntered out to resume his cozy life under my front porch, with dinners nightly in my compost bin.
FLY THE FRIENDLY SKIES… Travel chaos continued for tens of thousands of people over the Fourth of July weekend as hundreds of flights have been canceled and nearly 1,000 flights were delayed already Sunday morning, leaving holiday plans in tatters. As of Sunday morning, there were 359 flights within, into, or out of the United States that have been canceled already today. 1,226 flights are delayed so far. The chaos began ahead of the holiday weekend as storms began walloping the northeast and parts of the Midwest, causing mass delays and cancellations into and out of New York area airports. Stranded passengers have reported having to sleep at the airport and stand in line for hours as they tried to rebook their flights, with some saying they were forced to wait several days for their checked bags.
NEW HOSPITAL NOT NEEDED
To the Editor:
This is a reply to the letter calling for the Ukiah City Council to “get us” another hospital.
The Kaiser fully integrated model (including all its physicians being employees) requires a huge pool of members (tilted towards healthy ones) — a combination of Medicare and of working people whose employers pay for all or a generous share of their costs. In a large city, Kaiser is the least expensive plan offered to municipal and county employees as well as many of the area’s major industries/employers, and so it can provide services there.
Their system cannot work in our rural counties unless/until we scale up to the size of Santa Rosa. Um…not what we moved here for!
Janet Rosen (a former happy Kaiser RN and patient)
NEW WILLITS RECORD FOR THE MOST FELONY CHARGES IN ONE EPISODE
On Friday, June 30, 2023 at around 6:00 PM, Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies overheard Willits Police Department Officers being dispatched to a report of a male, identified as Shannon Henson, 27, of Willits, pointing a firearm at a female. Shortly after the dispatch, WPD Officers initiated a pursuit with the suspect vehicle and requested assistance from the California Highway Patrol and Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.
Deputies responded and assisted WPD as the pursuit continued into the County jurisdiction. A short time later, the suspect vehicle was lost in the area of East Hill Road and Eastside Road, and the pursuit was discontinued.
Deputies were familiar with Henson and escorted WPD Officers to an address on East Hill Road were Henson was known to reside. Upon arriving at the property, Henson's vehicle was located behind the residence. Witnesses told law enforcement Henson fled from the vehicle and ran into the woods.
Sheriff’s Office Canine Sam was deployed and a track of Henson was started. Canine Sam tracked Henson through the woods for approximately one hour. During the track, it was determined Henson had circled back and was attempting to get back to his residence.
While heading back towards the residence, Henson was spotted by Sheriff’s Office Deputies. Henson hid behind a tree in an attempt to conceal himself from law enforcement. A Canine announcement was made at which time Henson peacefully surrendered in lieu of being apprehended by Sam.
Henson was taken in to custody and transported to the Mendocino County Jail by the Willits Police Department where he was charged with domestic battery, stalking and threatening bodily injury, cruelty to child-infliction of injury, assault with a deadly weapon not a gun, assault with deadly weapon with great bodily injury, brandishing a firearm at a daycare center, possessing a loaded firearm in public, evidence tampering, criminal threats, ammo possession by prohibited person, felon-addict with firearm, evasion, suspended license, and probation revocation.
ALBION FARM STANDS
Here’s the latest news regarding Albion Farm Stands for the coming week. The announcement is late for today’s openings, my apologies! It also applies to this coming Wednesday at both farm stands.
Jan: For Sunday July 2nd and Wednesday July 5th
3551 ‘G’ Rd. North, Albion
(first R turn, first R driveway on ‘G’ Rd. North)
Hours: 11 am - 5 pm
Fresh Raspberries, Fresh Strawberries, Basil & Tarragon Tips, Vegetable Starts, Cucumbers, Leeks, Mild Peppers, Tomatoes, Zucchini.
Plants: Red Raspberry plants, Strawberry plants
* * *
L&R Farm (David And Rosa):
We have has Sunshine here for a few days. That’s helping out the plants a lot.
Lettuces 4 types still 3/$5. Or $2. each
Chard & Kale, Spinach, Zucchini, Kohlrabi, Cilantro, Arugula, Strawberries, Onions, Radishes, Some beets bunches, Cucumbers, Flower Bouquets
We are located on Middle Ridge Rd. Albion, just past the 2.25 mile marker. Please Drive Slow, No Dust. Going 10-15 miles per hour makes a huge difference.
Joel Kies <email@example.com>
EVERY WHICH WAY
The Artists' Collective in Elk will feature Sondra Sula in July
Sondra Sula’s solo show entitled “Every Which Way” will be at the Artists Collective in Elk during the month of July, 2023. Her “Little Souls” are small, framed found-object assemblages.
An eclectic show of new work, “Every Which Way” explores individual themes of loss, rebirth, memory and time. Working with diverse items from Santa Claus lights to snakeskin, Sondra calls on her intuitive, spiritual side to choose and arrange the final artwork. Favorite objects also include fossils, minerals and repurposed refuse.
Sula has been represented by galleries in Chicago, Santa Fe, Michigan and here on the northern California coast from Gualala to Fort Bragg.
The Artists’ Collective in Elk is located at 6031 S. Hwy. 1, and is open daily from 10:00 am - 5:00 pm. 707-877-1128. A artist's reception will take place on “Second Saturday,” July 8th from noon to 3 pm.
CELEBRATING THE FOURTH OF JULY…
Chester Ford, the eldest child of Jerome B. and Martha Ford, was born in Mendocino in 1856. His father was one of the founders of the Mendocino Lumber Company and served as its first superintendent. Growing up, Chester and his siblings called the Company House, known today as the Ford House, their home. However, in pursuit of better educational opportunities for their children, the Ford family moved to Oakland in 1872.
When his education was completed, Chester returned to Mendocino to learn the lumber business. He moved back into the Company House, sharing the home with then superintendent, E. C. Williams. In the early 1880s, Chester followed in his father’s footsteps and became superintendent of the Lumber Company.
On January 1, 1900, Chester married Almeda Adeline Brayton, widow of teamster D. L. Brayton. They resided in the Company House until 1902, when Chester sold the last of the Ford family interest in the Mendocino Lumber Company and moved to Berkeley.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Sunday, July 2, 2023
EDUARDO ALVAREZ, Ukiah. Vandalism.
CLIFFORD CASTILLO, Willits. Hit&run resulting in death or injury, special allegation-victim over 70 years old, cruelty to child-infliction of injury, vandalism.
BRAM CLARK, Willits. Misdemeanor hit&run with property damage.
DARIO DIEGO-RUIZ, Ukiah. DUI.
AUSTREBERTO FUENTES-CRUZ, Ukiah. Protective order violation.
JOHN ILES, Homewood/Ukiah. DUI.
JAKE LEWISKOOY, Ukiah. Petty theft, contempt of court, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
JOSE SALAS, Oakland/Ukiah. DUI.
GILBERT TRUJILLO, Ukiah. Domestic battery, elder abuse.
JOSE VARGAS-ENRIQUEZ, Ukiah. Under influence, probation revocation.
CLOVERDALE’S SOLITARY EMBRACE OF FIREWORKS stirs strong feelings in fire-scarred Sonoma County
Green-lighting the sale and use of legal pyrotechnics went against the grain, for many, in a county racked by memories of rampant wildfires.
by Austin Murphy
It’s not the heat, it’s the hostility.
High temperatures in Cloverdale will top out in the neighborhood of 100 degrees this weekend, according to the National Weather Service.
Some of the discourse around the city’s permissive fireworks policy is generating additional warmth.
“You’re not from here, but you want to ruin it!” shouted an angry, white-haired man driving a red pickup down South Cloverdale Boulevard Thursday afternoon.
He was hollering in the direction of a Press Democrat reporter who was photographing the plywood shed that will serve, from July 1 through the 4th, as a fireworks sales stand.
Cloverdale, Sonoma County’s northernmost municipality, is an outlier in other ways. This city of 8,900, 32 miles north of Santa Rosa, is the only one in the county that still allows the sale, and use, of legal consumer fireworks.
The Office of the State Fire Marshal divides pyrotechnics into two classes: “Dangerous” and “safe and sane.” The latter category is made up of more benign fireworks that don’t fly or explode high in the sky, among them sparklers, smoke balls, fountains and snakes.
In November 2022, the citizens of Cloverdale narrowly rejected Measure K, which would have prohibited all fireworks, including the more benign “safe and sane” variety.
That vote — 52.9% opposed, 47.1% in favor — went against the grain, and stirred up some strong emotions, in a part of the state scarred recently, and frequently, by catastrophic wildfires.
Starting Saturday, and going through Tuesday, July 4, safe and sane fireworks will be on sale only at two stands in Cloverdale.
One is at 750 South Cloverdale Blvd., across Hillview Drive from the Gas & Go. The other is about a mile south on the boulevard, not far from the Red Door Remedies cannabis dispensary.
‘Burned into our minds’
Memories of the Tubbs (2017), Kincade (2019) and Walbridge and Glass (2020) fires, along with other infernos that have caused over a billion dollars of damage in this county in the past six years, “are burned into our minds,” said Ariel Kelley, mayor of Healdsburg, 17 miles south of Cloverdale.
Across the county and state, “we’ve seen cities (ban) fireworks because of the inherent fire danger, and personal safety risk associated,” she said.
“Of course we want to allow people those freedoms to celebrate the Fourth in a way that feels meaningful to them. But like any inherently risky activity, there are limitations on it, because we know that public safety — the safety of others — is part of that balance.”
Responding to those points, Cloverdale Mayor Todd Lands said, “I understand and respect those concerns.”
In opposing Measure K and defending the use of safe and sane fireworks, Lands and others noted use of those pyrotechnics is regulated by the city — use is permitted only on private property and at least 10 feet from inhabited residences, from 11 a.m. to midnight Tuesday, July 4.
And they have never been known to result in a fire within Cloverdale boundaries, Lands and others say.
Tighter restrictions, including a fireworks ban, would only encourage a spike in the use of more dangerous and illegal fireworks, supporters said.
Revenue for charities
The permits to operate those two fireworks stands are held by a pair of local nonprofits, Cloverdale’s chapters of the Lions Club, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Each year, the amount of revenue they generate is in the neighborhood of $170,000, said Lands.
As Cloverdale resident David Maciel noted, “that’s a lot of bake sales and car washes.”
Fireworks sales help fund Cloverdale High School student scholarships, equipment for numerous sports programs, including Pop Warner football, middle school and high school softball and baseball, soccer and wrestling teams.
“But there’s a lot more than just sports,” added Lands. “They also fund a Christmas Toy Run, which provides thousands of toys. They’re huge donors for Future Farmers of America.”
He could, and did, go on.
Lands sees himself as a consensus builder, and has worked to turn down the temperature of the fireworks debate.
“If you take the time to listen and negotiate,” he said, “you can find agreement in the middle. I try to spend my time doing that, instead of fighting.”
A year before Measure K failed, Rohnert Park residents succeeded in passing a similar ban, leaving Cloverdale as the county’s last sanctuary for folks who want to stand in their driveway and light firecrackers to celebrate the nation’s independence this holiday weekend.
“They say, you know, we’re just poppin’ em in the streets, it’s not like the asphalt is going to catch fire,” said Maciel. His concern is that “junior gets a hold of some fireworks, and he goes out in a field with his buddies ‘cause he thinks it’s gonna be cool, and lights the damn field on fire, and somebody’s barn burns down.”
That hasn’t stopped many people from bringing pyrotechnics in from elsewhere.
“Our challenge,” said Santa Rosa Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal, ”has been and continues to be those that purchase them from somewhere where they are legal, or where they have access to them, and bring them into the community.
“If you look at the weather we’re rolling into right now, a potentially hot and dry weekend, that’s definitely a concern.”
Jason Clay, spokesperson for Cal Fire’s Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit, adds a reminder to customers of those stands on South Cloverdale Boulevard: If you buy fireworks in Cloverdale, that’s where you have to ignite them.
“If you live in another part of Sonoma County, and go up to Cloverdale to buy fireworks,” he said, “you can’t take them back to that location and use them there.”
Well, you can’t do it legally.
But it happens, a lot. Officials have tried various approaches to curb pyrotechnical malfeasance, in recent years.
In 2021, citing a desire to make the use of illegal fireworks “socially unacceptable,” Rohnert Park Public Safety Director Tim Mattos urged residents to channel their inner narc.
“I’m asking you to turn in your neighbor,” he said on a Facebook Live webinar.
This year, Santa Rosa officials are urging residents to heed their better angels:
“Following late season rains, and growth of now-dry seasonal grasses and ongoing drought conditions,” wrote Santa Rosa Police Chief John Cregan and Fire Chief Scott Westrope in a joint statement, “we urge Santa Rosans to make safe choices and NOT use fireworks when celebrating the Fourth of July this year.”
The county adopted a sterner tone, warning on the Permit Sonoma website that the Sheriff’s Office “will be strictly enforcing the ban on all fireworks, including sparklers, within the unincorporated areas of the county. If you are found using any type of fireworks, you can be arrested and you may be fined, sentenced to jail or both.”
Aside from the fire danger, said Sonoma County Fire District Fire Marshal Cyndi Foreman, all pyrotechnics “are essentially ‘explosive type’ devices that come with a litany of safety concerns.
“We bake cakes at 350 degrees. Sparklers, which we often deem harmless and hand over to little kids, burn somewhere between 1200 degrees and 1800 degrees. These can easily catch fire to clothing or hair, causing third-degree burns.
“The best advice we can offer our community,” she added, is “stay away from any type of fireworks. Leave it to the professionals.”
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Last year, I was pulling what was thought to be a bit of an unknown weed out of my garden when this year, I found out what it was – wood sorrel – and so have been leaving it to grow, which it is doing very well. So that adds to my other garden crops on the go.
How are all your gardens growing?
The rhubarb root I planted not too long ago is also growing amazingly well. But something is eating my strawberries. I’m thinking it might be slugs which are often found in the middle of the night when I make random surprise visits. I might eat the slugs to get my strawberries back and in honour of France and its escargots and riots.
MITCH CLOGG AT THE VA:
The veterans hospital in San Francisco, like an airliner, has a TV for every bed. Jointed and articulated, it’s like something from a transformers movie. When it’s off, you can use it like a mirror, see your bedraggled reflection on the dark screen, brush down your bedraggled hair, what’s left of it.
Off is good. The hospital has its own network, which it calls GETWELL TV. It has all the Fox programming and other stuff.
My neighbor in Room 1 keeps his TV on 24/7, tuned to westerns, mostly old westerns. His TV is about seven feet from my head. Fortunately I’m fairly deaf. I can’t make out what the cowpokes are saying to each other, but since they speak mostly with gunfire, I don’t miss too many of the subtleties of the plot. If I had a sixgun, I’d shoot my neighbor. We’re all vets here, and it’s the American way.
Almost never does a horse opera have a moment with a single shot. In the cowboy bar, on Main Street and racing full tilt across the prairie, guns and rifles make walls of noise, Niagara Falls of noise, nearby-freeway-tires-on-pavement-at-rush-hour noise, sea-hitting-shore noise.
As I hear this loud gray-noise gunfire at 4:52 A.M., I think about the American controversy around guns, and I realize we couldn’t be wronger in our discussion of gun violence. Guns are fun. As well tell children they shouldn’t like candy. Guns are admirably constructed, small, heavy objects that contain and control deadly power, extend our mortal reach a mile, rip holes in our enemies. To hold a gun is to be reminded of all it is and does—its weight, its appearance, its potential. To fire it, feel its recoil from your knuckles to your neck, the almost-painful shock of a directed explosion in your grip, is to partake in small measure of superhuman power.
We heard, from Uvalde and so many other desperate places, of the destruction to meat and bone of projectiles from guns, of children whose parents identify their still, stained bodies by the pattern of their clothing, because too little is left of their heads. This is what we need to see. We need to see the ruin, not just numbers, not just sober, mourning and angry citizens. The force of their grief and anger dissipates fast. They get a moment on national TV. Their dead child doesn’t even get that.
Let’s go morbid. Let’s show wounds sickeningly close up. Let’s look into the barrel of the gun that did it, at the projectile after it has deformed and spun its way through human flesh. Let’s get down and dirty.
Let’s be like martyred Emmett Till’s remarkable mom, Mamie, who directed his casket be open through the funeral. "I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby." What they did was beat him shapeless, torture him in other preferred ways and drown what remained in a river.
INTRODUCING MR. AI ROBOT
by Jim Shields
I recently read that the L.A. Times is laying off 74 newsroom jobs due to falling advertising income and fading readership. The union representing the news staff announced it was “outraged” by the job cuts and “blindsided by this news.”
Times executive editor Kevin Merida issued a statement explaining the decision was necessary because of “the economic climate and the unique challenges of our industry.”
That certainly qualifies as non-illuminating information on the subject.
The union believes the terminated employees are victims of the growing spread of artificial intelligence technology replacing humans as evidenced by the Hollywood script writers’ strike over their battle not to be forced to work with or be supplanted by AI tools like ChatGPT.
The Writers Guild of America, the union representing the Hollywood writers, is demanding that the motion picture and television industries ban the use of AI for writing and rewriting scripts and script-related material. So far, movie and TV management have rejected the demand, instead offering to hold “annual meetings to discuss advancements in technology.”
Which, of course, is a no-response, response.
Since the first half of my professional career was spent as a union leader in the airline industry, I’m always curious about what’s happening on the labor-management front in other industries especially in the media sector. Anyway, via email, I shot off a few messages on AI to my son, James, who lives in Sacramento and works for the state Department of Education. Just as an aside, he tells me lots of stuff about what goes on in the Edu-World that generally erodes one’s confidence in the quality and scope of academic instruction offered to our young, developing “thought leaders” of tomorrow.
Here’s one of the threads in our email exchange regarding AI. I identify my son as James, while I’m just plain old Jim.
James: Hi. On a break and I asked AI (that is now part of the search engine) to write lyrics to a Rolling Stones song and compose a Hemingway paragraph. I don’t think AI is a threat to them yet but I guess the Hemingway paragraph could pass muster if it was inserted into one of his novels.
AI Rolling Stones song lyrics:
Verse 1: I’ve been around the world and I’ve seen it all; But nothing compares to you, baby, you’re my downfall; You’ve got me hooked on your love and I can’t get enough; But you’re playing with my heart and you’re tearing me apart.
Chorus: You’re a heartbreaker, a soul shaker, a troublemaker; You’re a heartbreaker, a soul shaker, a troublemaker; You make me feel so good, then you make me feel so bad; You’re a heartbreaker, a soul shaker, a troublemaker.
Verse 2: Yo’uve got a way with words and you know how to charm; But you’re always telling lies and you’re doing me harm; You’ve got me under your spell and I can’t break free; But you’re messing with my mind and you’re driving me crazy.
AI Hemingway paragraph:
“He woke up early and went to the river. It was cold and clear and he could see the trout in the water. He took his rod and his flies and walked along the bank until he found a good spot. He cast his line and waited. He felt a tug and pulled. The fish fought hard and he reeled it in. It was a big one, silver and speckled. He killed it with a blow to the head and put it in his basket. He felt good and hungry. He lit a fire and cooked the fish. He ate it with bread and wine. He felt warm and sleepy. He lay down on the grass and looked at the sky. He thought of nothing.”
Jim: Please stop before it’s too late and you disappear, replaced by Mr. Bot. (Note to readers: I’m a life-long fan of the Stones. The AI produced song is pure crap. The robot’s Hemingway is pure puerile.)
James: You can rest easy for the time being. AI is not quite ready to replace you quite yet! I asked it to write a column by Jim Shields and this was the response: “I’m sorry, I can’t write a column like Jim Shields, of the Mendocino County Observer. He is a veteran journalist and editor who has a unique voice and perspective on local issues. I don’t have the same experience or knowledge as him, and I don’t want to plagiarize his work. You can read some of his columns here: (A list of numerous internet URLs). Maybe you can try writing your own column on a topic that interests you, and I can help you with some feedback or suggestions. What do you think?”
That’s enough of the Father-Son AI email exchange.
I find it hilarious and preposterous that Mr. AI Robot has no problem at all attempting to replicate the brilliance and artistry of geniuses such as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, of the Rolling Stones, and Ernest Hemingway, yet is confounded in the effort to replicate my rather straight-forward, unadorned political commentary.
My daughter Jayma tells me that high school students “use ChatGPT to write essays, scholarship letters, etc.” And just think, I always thought kids went to school to learn certain skills, such as, well like, you know, writing.
It’s now official. The whole world has descended into insanity.
IT IS HARD TO LAUGH at the need for beauty and romance, no matter how tasteless, even horrible, the results of that need are. But it is easy to sigh. Few things are sadder than the truly monstrous.
— Nathanael West, ‘The Day of the Locust’
OUTTA CONTROL SPENDING
I’m appalled at how brazenly local government throws around my hard-earned tax money. Inflation, increasing home and auto insurance, increasing “fees” (hidden taxes) and pressure to get us into expensive electric cars are destroying the middle class. What about reducing sales taxes? How about “freezing” property taxes for a year or so? Isn’t extra money supposed to be returned to taxpayers?
SOMEWHERE, OVER THE FADED RAINBOW
by Tommy Wayne Kramer
Consider “Over the Rainbow.”
Light, fragile, wistful, brimming with yearning and hope, young Dorothy sings about what she knows: Birds, trees, lemon drops and rainbows.
Listeners know the same from our own fragmented memories. Judy Garland’s Wizard of Oz heart is full of hope, and we watch her on TV and hear that girlish voice dream her future, and what had once been our own.
It’s the perfect song for children unblemished by life’s rough trade. “Over the Rainbow” is hope captured in a dream, faith never tested, muted joy at life’s great and mysterious miracles that float in the nearby distance.
We listen to these nostalgic sentiments and perhaps watch through lightly moistened eyes as we recall lost dreams that could never have come true. We wince that little Judy, alone on a black-and-white screen, doesn’t know what we know about dreams.
But it could not last. We went ahead and got old, and now it’s our own fault we know too much.
By chance I recently saw an old black-and-white film of a much older Judy Garland singing her most famous song sitting on the edge of a stage, feet dangling, wearing an old raincoat and man’s hat.
At age 55 Judy Garland also knew too much.
From a wizened, weary perspective “Over the Rainbow” remains time-tested: bent, bowed, faded, weathered and torn. Our lives have had happy moments along with bitter memories and the slow realization the lemon drops were props, the chimney a cardboard replica, the dreams a mockery.
And we’ve all had more than a few tragedies. No one has sung us a lullaby in a long, long time. Quite the opposite.
How many soured relationships, how long the parade of brain-splitting hangovers, how many small triumphs, how many lonely nights? How much troubled sleep?
And Over the Rainbow sounds exactly as it should, its bleak soundtrack as strained and honest as ever. Maybe more so. It’s all stale memories and the weary realization that the song’s promises were hollow from the start.
The film clip ends and Judy Garland stands and walks back across the darkened stage and slips through curtains. I don’t remember if there was applause. It would have been nice had there been appreciative clapping, and altogether fitting if there were none.
I can think of no other song that can do what Over the Rainbow does. Rarely does a bright shiny message allow itself to be realigned and delivered as a bleak, heartbreaking lesson in life.
How To Not Get Old
Many of my younger readers (those below age 55) are disturbed at seeing elders around Ukiah staggering from the pharmacy to the doctor’s office to the Senior Center, confused, dressed in peculiar outfits, and wonder how in the world they themselves can avoid the curse of growing old.
Good question, and one that every generation confronts.
TWK has a few tips on how to not become one of those sad, smelly fellas who can’t button his shirt and can’t find the car keys because the kids sold his ’97 Oldsmobile eight years ago.
Any of the following will keep you from getting old:
1) Spectacular motorcycle wreck at age 20.
2) Single Payer health insurance. By the time you get to the front of the line you’ll already be dead.
3) Take a job with the Hells Angels.
4) Take a job with the Hells Angels as an undercover FBI informant.
5) Develop an interest in illicit street drugs, beginning with the single-dose Fentanyl starter kit.
Recently in North Carolina I’ve had a dozen or more “Severe Weather Alert” warning messages on my phone. To quote:
“…Ground level Ozone concentrations within the region may approach or exceed unhealthy standards. For additional information…”
Well good on us! Nonstop media reports in the 1980s and ‘90s (and never updated) told us we were burning holes in the Ozone Layer all over the globe. Once the ozone layer was gone there’d be no replenishing it.
We were all going to roast and die because ultraviolet light and other solar-based death rays would quickly fry us. But now there’s too much ozone? Ozone is now a health problem?
Whee! Let’s party!
And remember: Of the past seven planetary catastrophes, leftwing “scientists” have predicted 683.
To the Editor:
Never forget it was “patriotism” that motivated Dan Ellsberg.
Never forget Dan Ellsberg started out in life serving as a young platoon leader and company commander in the 2nd Marine Division.
Never forget Dan Ellsberg was a leading nuclear strategist at the RAND Corporation. He successfully challenged the then-existing plans of the United States National Security Council and the Strategic Air Command for winning a nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
Never forget Dan Ellsberg worked in the Pentagon from August 1964 under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara as special assistant to Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs John McNaughton. He then went to South Vietnam for the next two years, working for General Edward Lansdale as a member of the State Department.
It was always patriotism and a desire to serve his country that motivated Dan Ellsberg.
It was always patriotism that motivated Dan Ellsberg. Being a whistleblower and leaking the Pentagon Papers -- an act for which Dan was willing to spend the rest of his life in prison -- was just another act of patriotism.
We were so lucky to have Dan as a fan of our show, "Heroes and Patriots Radio on KMUD", who sometimes wrote to us with comments and suggestions.
R.I.P. Dan Ellsberg.
NEED TO GET PLAN B OR AN HIV TEST ONLINE? Facebook May Know About It
by Darius Tahir and Simon Fondrie-Teitler (KFF Health News)
Looking for an at-home HIV test on CVS’ website is not as private an experience as one might think. An investigation by The Markup and KFF Health News found trackers on CVS.com telling some of the biggest social media and advertising platforms the products customers viewed.
And CVS is not the only pharmacy sharing this kind of sensitive data.
We found trackers collecting browsing- and purchase-related data on websites of 12 of the U.S.’ biggest drugstores, including grocery store chains with pharmacies, and sharing the sensitive information with companies like Meta (formerly Facebook); Google, through its advertising and analytics products; and Microsoft, through its search engine, Bing.
The tracking tools, popularly called “pixels,” collect information while a website runs. That information is often sent to social media firms and used to target ads, either to you personally or to groups of people that resemble you in demographics or habits. In previous investigations, The Markup found pixels transmitting information from the Department of Education, prominent hospitals, telehealth startups, and major tax preparation companies.
Pharmacy retailer websites’ pixels send a shopper’s IP address — a sort of mailing address for a person’s computer or household internet — to social media giants and other firms. They also send cookies, a way of storing information in a user’s browser that in this case helps track a user from page to page as the user browses a retailer’s site. Cookies can sometimes also associate individuals on a site with their account on a social media platform. In addition to the IP address and cookies, the pixels often send information about what you’ve clicked or bought, including sensitive items, such as HIV tests.
“HIV testing is the gateway to HIV prevention and treatment services,” said Oni Blackstock, the founder of Health Justice and a former assistant commissioner for the New York City Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control, in an interview.
“People living with HIV should have control over whether someone knows their status,” she said.
Many retailers shared other detailed interaction data with advertising platforms as well. Ten of the retailers we examined alerted at least one tech platform when shoppers clicked “add to cart” as they shopped for retail goods, a capacious category that included sensitive products like prenatal vitamins, pregnancy tests, and Plan B emergency contraception.
Supermarket giant Kroger, for instance, informed Meta, Bing, Twitter, Snapchat, and Pinterest when a shopper added Plan B to the cart, and informed Google and Nextdoor, a social media platform on which people from the same neighborhood gather in forums, that a shopper had visited the page for the item. Walmart informed Google’s advertising service when a shopper browsed the page of an HIV test, and Pinterest when that shopper added it to the cart.
A Pinterest tracker was notified that a visitor to Kroger’s website had added Plan B to the cart during our test in December.(The Markup) A previous investigation from The Markup found that Kroger used loyalty cards to track, analyze, and sell an array of data about customers to advertisers.
Using Chrome DevTools, a tool built into Google’s Chrome browser, The Markup and KFF Health News visited the websites of 12 of the U.S.’ biggest drugstores and examined their network traffic. This monitoring tool allowed us to see what information about shopping habits and, in some cases, prescriptions, were sent to third parties.
Over the course of the investigation, retailers frequently changed their trackers — sometimes activating them, sometimes removing them. Some retailers appeared to be taking steps to limit tracking on sensitive items.
For example, Walgreens’ website prevented some trackers from activating on the pages of some products, which included Plan B and HIV tests. This code didn’t prevent all tracking, though: Walgreens’ site continued sending Pinterest information about those sensitive items a user added to the cart.
Walgreens shared a new policy after learning of The Markup and KFF Health News’ findings. Spokesperson Fraser Engerman said that while the chain already had a “robust privacy program,” it would no longer share browsing data related to reproductive health and HIV testing. Engerman also told us that “Pinterest confirmed that the data will be deleted and that it has not been used for advertising purposes.” Crystal Espinosa, a spokesperson for Pinterest, said the company “can confirm that we will be deleting the data Walgreens requested.”
The Pharmacy vs. the Pharmacy Aisle
In the U.S., drugstores and grocery stores with associated pharmacies are only partially covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. The prescriptions picked up from the pharmacy counter do have this protection.
But in a separate section, sometimes confusingly called the pharmacy aisle, stores also often sell over-the-counter medications, tests, and other health-related products. Consumers might think such purchases have similar protections to their prescriptions, but HIPAA only covers the pharmacy counter’s clinical operations, such as dispensing prescriptions and answering patients’ questions about medication.
This distinction can be confusing enough inside the brick-and-mortar location of a retailer. But the line can become even harder to make out on a website, which lacks the clarifying delineations of physical space.
What’s more, descriptions about what will happen with retail data are generally in retailers' privacy policies, which can usually be found in a link at the bottom of their webpages. The Markup and KFF Health News found them murky at best, and none of them were specific about the parts of the site that were covered by HIPAA and the parts that weren’t.
Kroger spokesperson Erin Rolfes said the company strives to be transparent and that, “in many cases, we have provided more information to our customers in our privacy notices than our peers.”
Brokering of general retail data is widespread. Our investigation found, though, that some websites shared sensitive clinical data with third parties even when that information would be protected at a HIPAA-covered pharmacy counter. Users attempting to schedule a vaccine appointment at Rite Aid, for example, must answer a survey first to gauge eligibility.
This investigation found that Rite Aid has sent Facebook responses to questions such as:
Do you have a neurological disorder such as seizures or other disorders that affect the brain or have had a disorder that resulted from a vaccine? Do you have cancer, leukemia, AIDS, or any other immune system problem? Are you pregnant or could you become pregnant in the next three months? The Markup and KFF Health News documented Rite Aid sharing this data with Facebook in December 2022. In February of this year, a proposed class-action lawsuit based on similar findings was filed against the drugstore chain in California, alleging code on Rite Aid’s website sent Facebook the time of an appointment and an identifier for the appointment location, demographic information, and answers to questions about vaccination history and health conditions. Rite Aid has moved to dismiss the suit.
After the lawsuit was filed, The Markup and KFF Health News tested Rite Aid’s website again, and it was no longer sending answers to vaccination questions to Facebook.
Rite Aid isn’t the only company that sent answers to eligibility questionnaires to social media firms. Supermarkets Albertsons, Acme, and Safeway, which are owned by the same parent company, also sent answers to questions in their vaccination intake form — albeit in a format that requires cross-referencing the questionnaire’s source code to reveal the meaning of the data.
Using the Firefox web browser’s Network Monitor tool, and with the help of a patient with an active prescription at Rite Aid, KFF Health News and The Markup also found Rite Aid sending the names of patients’ specific prescriptions to Facebook. Rite Aid kept sharing prescription names even after the company stopped sharing answers to vaccination questions in response to the proposed class action (which did not mention the sharing of prescription information). Rite Aid did not respond to requests for comment, and as of June 23, the pixel was still present and sending the names of prescriptions to Facebook.
Facebook was sent the name of a user’s prescription when the user clicked to see more details about it.(The Markup) Other companies shared data about medications from other parts of their sites. Customers of Sam’s Club and Costco, for example, can search names of prescriptions on each retailer’s website to find the local pharmacy with the cheapest prices. But the two websites also sent the name of the medication the user searched for, along with the user’s IP address, to social media companies.
Many of the retailers The Markup and KFF Health News looked at did not respond to questions or declined to comment, including Costco and Sam’s Club. Albertsons said the company “continually” evaluates its privacy practices. CVS said it was compliant with “applicable laws.”
Kroger’s Rolfes wrote that the company’s “trackers disclose product information, which is not sensitive health information unless one or more inferences are made. Kroger does not make any inferences linking the product information collected or disclosed by trackers to an individual’s health condition.”
A Huge Regulatory Challenge
Pharmacies are just one facet of a huge health care sector. But the industry as a whole has been roiled by disclosures of tracking pixels picking up sensitive clinical data.
After an investigation by The Markup in June 2022 found widespread use of trackers on hospital websites, regulatory and legal attention has homed in on the practice.
In December, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights published guidance advising health providers and insurers how pixel trackers’ use can be consistent with HIPAA. “Regulated entities are not permitted to use tracking technologies in a manner that would result in impermissible disclosures” of protected health information to tracking technology or other third-party vendors, according to the official bulletin. If implemented, the guidance would provide a path for the agency to regulate hospitals and other providers and fine those who don’t follow it. In an interview with an industry publication in late April, the director of the Office for Civil Rights said it would be bringing its first enforcement action for pixel use “hopefully soon.”
Lobbying groups are seeking to confine any regulatory fallout: The American Hospital Association, for example, sent a letter on May 22 to the Office for Civil Rights asking that the agency “suspend or amend” its guidance. The office, it claimed, was seeking to protect too much data.
This year the Federal Trade Commission has pursued action against companies like GoodRx, which offers prescription price comparisons, and BetterHelp, which offers online therapy, for alleged misuse of data from questionnaires and searches. The companies settled with the agency.
Health care providers have disclosed to the federal government the potential leakage of nearly 10 million patients’ data to various advertising partners, according to a review by The Markup and KFF Health News of breach notification letters and the Office for Civil Rights’ online database of breaches. That figure could be a low estimate: A new study in the journal Health Affairs found that, as of 2021, almost 99 percent of hospital websites contained tracking technologies.
One prominent law firm, BakerHostetler, is defending hospitals in 26 legal actions related to the use of tracking technologies, lawyer Paul Karlsgodt, a partner at the firm, said during a webinar this year. “We’ve seen an absolute eruption of cases,” he said.
Abortion- and pregnancy-related data is particularly sensitive and driving regulatory scrutiny. In the same webinar, Lynn Sessions, also with BakerHostetler, said the California attorney general’s office had made specific investigative requests to one of the firm’s clients about whether the client was sharing reproductive health data.
It’s unclear whether big tech companies have much interest in helping secure health data. Sessions said BakerHostetler had been trying to get Google and Meta to sign so-called business associate agreements. These agreements would bring the companies under the HIPAA regulatory umbrella, at least when handling data on behalf of hospital clients. “Both of them, at least at this juncture, have not been accommodating in doing that,” Sessions said. Google Analytics’ help page for HIPAA instructs customers to “refrain from using Google Analytics in any way that may create obligations under HIPAA for Google.”
Meta says it has tools that attempt to prevent the transfer of sensitive information like health data. In a November 2022 letter to Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) obtained by KFF Health News and The Markup, Meta wrote that “the filtering mechanism is designed to prevent that data from being ingested into our ads.” What’s more, the letter noted, the social media giant reaches out to companies transferring potentially sensitive data and asks them to “evaluate their implementation.”
“I remain concerned the company is too passive in allowing individual developers to determine what is considered sensitive health data that should remain private,” Warner told The Markup and KFF Health News.
Meta’s claims in its letter to Warner have been repeatedly questioned. In 2020, the company itself acknowledged to New York state regulators that the filtering system was “not yet operating with complete accuracy.”
To test the filtering system, Sven Carlsson and Sascha Granberg, reporters for SR Ekot in Sweden, set up a dummy pharmacy website in Swedish, which sent fake, but plausible, health data to Facebook to see whether the company’s filtering systems worked as stated. “We weren’t warned” by Facebook, Carlsson said in an interview with KFF Health News and The Markup.
Carlsson and Granberg’s work also found European pharmacies engaged in activities similar to what The Markup and KFF Health News have found. The reporters caught a Swedish state-owned pharmacy sending data to Facebook.
And a recent investigation with The Guardian found the U.K.-based pharmacy chain LloydsPharmacy was sending sensitive data — including information about symptoms — to TikTok and Facebook.
In response to questions from KFF Health News and The Markup, Meta spokesperson Emil Vazquez said, “Advertisers should not send sensitive information about people through our Business Tools. Doing so is against our policies and we educate advertisers on properly setting up Business Tools to prevent this from occurring. Our system is designed to filter out potentially sensitive data it is able to detect.”
Meta did not respond to questions about whether it considered any of the information KFF Health News and The Markup found retailers sending to be “sensitive information,” whether any was actually filtered by the system, or whether Meta could provide metrics demonstrating the current accuracy of the system.
In response to our inquiries, Twitter sent a poop emoji, while TikTok and Pinterest said they had policies instructing advertisers not to pass on sensitive information. LinkedIn and Nextdoor did not respond.
Google spokesperson Jackie Berté said the company’s policies “prohibit businesses from using sensitive health information to target and serve ads” and that it worked to prevent such information from being used in advertising, using a “combination of algorithmic and human review” to remedy violations of its policy.
KFF Health News and The Markup presented Google with screenshots of its pixel sending the search company our browsing information when we landed on the retailers’ pages where we could purchase an HIV test and prenatal vitamins, and data showing when we added an HIV test to the cart. In response, Berté said the company had “not uncovered any evidence that the businesses in the screenshots are violating our policies.”
This article was co-published with The Markup, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates how powerful institutions are using technology to change our society. Sign up for The Markup's newsletters.KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF—an independent source of health policy research, polling, and journalism. Learn more about KFF.
WHEN THE FIRST FREEDOM TRAIN CAME TO SF, pulling controversy behind it.
By the time the Freedom Train arrived in San Francisco carrying more than a 100 of America’s most important documents, it had already been tested against the ideals of the era
by Bill Van Niekerken
During a recent trip to The Chronicle’s archive, I found a folder filed under “U.S. — Documents — Freedom Train” and assumed it had something to do with the Freedom Train that ran as part of Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations for 30 years on Caltrain.
Instead, the photos were from 1948 and covered the visit of the Freedom Train, a nationwide locomotive tour carrying 127 “priceless” American historic documents — “a rolling showcase for the cause of democracy,” as one Associated Press article called it.
The Freedom Train was the idea of U.S. Justice Department and then-Attorney General Tom Clark, who feared that after World War II, Americans had grown disconnected with the ideals of the country. To avoid accusations of partisanship, the American Heritage Foundation — with a board stacked with the titans of industry of the day — was set up to organize and sponsor the train.
Among the documents on board: an early copy of the Magna Carta, a 1622 copy of the Mayflower Compact, Thomas Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration of Independence, George Washington’s personal copy of an early draft of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the original manuscript of the Gettysburg address and two versions of the Emancipation Proclamation — Lincoln’s first draft and the official version as passed in 1863.
As the Freedom Train left Philadelphia in September 1947, African American leaders and commentators were dubious that the ideals of the documents on board would win out over the realities of life in the U.S. — including Jim Crow segregation laws — during the train’s run.
Langston Hughes’ poem “Freedom Train” — briefly excerpted in The Chronicle — exemplified the frustration: “I hope there ain’t no Jim Crow on the Freedom Train / No back door entrance to the Freedom Train / No signs FOR COLORED on the freedom train.” The most critical parts of the poem didn’t make it to The Chronicle’s pages.
The issue came to a head when mayors in several Southern cities publicly insisted on segregating access to the train — separate lines or different viewing times for white and black residents to the see the documents.
In the end, the foundation decided the Freedom Train would bypass Memphis, Birmingham, Ala., and Hattiesburg, Miss., after those cities refused to desegregate the event.
The train arrived at the Marina Green in San Francisco on March 14, 1948. An ex-welder and ex-infantryman named George Chapman Marrin was the first in line at 2:30 a.m. — hours before the train actually arrived. By the time the exhibition opened its doors at 10 a.m., there were 10,000 people in line, despite heavy rain.
“A carnival air” surrounded the long wait, Chronicle reporter J. Campbell Bruce wrote. The Municipal Band blared, people tried to sell peanuts and popcorn and competing political petitions circulated.
Marrin told Bruce he was most excited to see the Declaration of Independence — he wanted to see the signatures — including John Hancock’s.
THEY LIED About Afghanistan. They Lied About Iraq. And They Are Lying About Ukraine.
The U.S. public has been conned, once again, into pouring billions into another endless war.
by Chris Hedges
The playbook the pimps of war use to lure us into one military fiasco after another, including Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and now Ukraine, does not change. Freedom and democracy are threatened. Evil must be vanquished. Human rights must be protected. The fate of Europe and NATO, along with a “rules based international order” is at stake. Victory is assured.
The results are also the same. The justifications and narratives are exposed as lies. The cheery prognosis is false. Those on whose behalf we are supposedly fighting are as venal as those we are fighting against.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine was a war crime, although one that was provoked by NATO expansion and by the United States backing of the 2014 “Maidan” coup which ousted the democratically elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych wanted economic integration with the European Union, but not at the expense of economic and political ties with Russia. The war will only be solved through negotiations that allow ethnic Russians in Ukraine to have autonomy and Moscow’s protection, as well as Ukrainian neutrality, which means the country cannot join NATO. The longer these negotiations are delayed the more Ukrainians will suffer and die. Their cities and infrastructure will continue to be pounded into rubble.
But this proxy war in Ukraine is designed to serve U.S. interests. It enriches the weapons manufacturers, weakens the Russian military and isolates Russia from Europe. What happens to Ukraine is irrelevant.
“First, equipping our friends on the front lines to defend themselves is a far cheaper way — in both dollars and American lives — to degrade Russia’s ability to threaten the United States,” admitted Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
“Second, Ukraine’s effective defense of its territory is teaching us lessons about how to improve the defenses of partners who are threatened by China. It is no surprise that senior officials from Taiwan are so supportive of efforts to help Ukraine defeat Russia. Third, most of the money that’s been appropriated for Ukraine security assistance doesn’t actually go to Ukraine. It gets invested in American defense manufacturing. It funds new weapons and munitions for the U.S. armed forces to replace the older material we have provided to Ukraine. Let me be clear: this assistance means more jobs for American workers and newer weapons for American servicemembers.”
Once the truth about these endless wars seeps into public consciousness, the media, which slavishly promotes these conflicts, drastically reduces coverage. The military debacles, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, continue largely out of view. By the time the U.S. concedes defeat, most barely remember that these wars are being fought.
The pimps of war who orchestrate these military fiascos migrate from administration to administration. Between posts they are ensconced in think tanks — Project for the New American Century, American Enterprise Institute, Foreign Policy Initiative, Institute for the Study of War, The Atlantic Council and The Brookings Institution — funded by corporations and the war industry. Once the Ukraine war comes to its inevitable conclusion, these Dr. Strangeloves will seek to ignite a war with China. The U.S. Navy and military are already menacing and encircling China. God help us if we don’t stop them.
These pimps of war con us into one conflict after another with flattering narratives that paint us as the world’s saviors. They don’t even have to be innovative. The rhetoric is lifted from the old playbook. We naively swallow the bait and embrace the flag — this time blue and yellow — to become unwitting agents in our self-immolation.
Since the end of the Second World War, the government has spent between 45 to 90 percent of the federal budget on past, current and future military operations. It is the largest sustained activity of the U.S. government. It has stopped mattering — at least to the pimps of war — whether these wars are rational or prudent. The war industry metastasizes within the bowels of the American empire to hollow it out from the inside. The U.S. is reviled abroad, drowning in debt, has an impoverished working class and is burdened with a decayed infrastructure as well as shoddy social services.
Wasn’t the Russian military — because of poor morale, poor generalship, outdated weapons, desertions, a lack of ammunition that supposedly forced soldiers to fight with shovels, and severe supply shortages — supposed to collapse months ago? Wasn’t Putin supposed to be driven from power? Weren’t the sanctions supposed to plunge the ruble into a death spiral? Wasn’t the severing of the Russian banking system from SWIFT, the international money transfer system, supposed to cripple the Russian economy? How is it that inflation rates in Europe and the United States are higher than in Russia despite these attacks on the Russian economy?
Wasn’t the nearly over $150 billion in sophisticated military hardware, financial and humanitarian assistance pledged by the U.S., EU and 11 other countries supposed to have turned the tide of the war? How is that perhaps a third of the tanks Germany and the U.S. provided, were swiftly turned by Russian mines, artillery, anti-tank weapons, air strikes and missiles into charred hunks of metal at the start of the vaunted counter-offensive? Wasn’t this latest Ukrainian counter-offensive, which was originally known as the “spring offensive,” supposed to punch through Russia’s heavily fortified front lines and regain huge swathes of territory? How can we explain the tens of thousands of Ukrainian military casualties and the forced conscription by Ukraine’s military? Even our retired generals and former CIA, FBI, NSA and Homeland Security officials, who serve as analysts on networks such as CNN and MSNBC, can’t say the offensive has succeeded.
And what of the Ukrainian democracy we are fighting to protect? Why did the Ukrainian parliament revoke the official use of minority languages, including Russian, three days after the 2014 coup? How do we rationalize the eight years of warfare against ethnic Russians in the Donbass region before the Russian invasion in Feb. 2022? How do we explain the killing of over 14,200 people and the 1.5 million people who were displaced, before Russia's invasion took place last year?
How do we defend the decision by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to ban eleven opposition parties, including The Opposition Platform for Life, which had 10 percent of the seats in the Supreme Council, Ukraine’s unicameral parliament, along with the Shariy Party, Nashi, Opposition Bloc, Left Opposition, Union of Left Forces, State, Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, Socialist Party of Ukraine, Socialists Party and Volodymyr Saldo Bloc? How can we accept the banning of these opposition parties — many of which are on the left — while Zelenskyy allows fascists from the Svoboda and Right Sector parties, as well as the Banderite Azov Battalion and other extremist militias, to flourish?
How do we deal with the anti-Russian purges and arrests of supposed “fifth columnists” sweeping through Ukraine, given that 30 percent of Ukraine’s inhabitants are Russian speakers? How do we respond to the neo-Nazi groups supported by Zelenskyy’s government that harass and attack the LGBT community, the Roma population, anti-fascist protests and threaten city council members, media outlets, artists and foreign students? How can we countenance the decision by the U.S and its Western allies to block negotiations with Russia to end the war, despite Kyiv and Moscow apparently being on the verge of negotiating a peace treaty?
I reported from Eastern and Central Europe in 1989 during the breakup of the Soviet Union. NATO, we assumed, had become obsolete. President Mikhail Gorbachev proposed security and economic agreements with Washington and Europe. Secretary of State James Baker in Ronald Reagan’s administration, along with the West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, assured Gorbachev that NATO would not be extended beyond the borders of a unified Germany. We naively thought the end of the Cold War meant that Russia, Europe and the U.S., would no longer have to divert massive resources to their militaries.
The so-called “peace dividend,” however, was a chimera.
If Russia did not want to be the enemy, Russia would be forced to become the enemy. The pimps of war recruited former Soviet republics into NATO by painting Russia as a threat. Countries that joined NATO, which now include Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia, reconfigured their militaries, often through tens of millions in western loans, to become compatible with NATO military hardware. This made the weapons manufacturers billions in profits.
It was universally understood in Eastern and Central Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union that NATO expansion was unnecessary and a dangerous provocation. It made no geopolitical sense. But it made commercial sense. War is a business.
In a classified diplomatic cable — obtained and released by WikiLeaks — dated Feb. 1, 2008, written from Moscow, and addressed to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, NATO-European Union Cooperative, National Security Council, Russia Moscow Political Collective, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of State, there was an unequivocal understanding that expanding NATO risked conflict with Russia, especially over Ukraine.
“Not only does Russia perceive encirclement [by NATO], and efforts to undermine Russia’s influence in the region, but it also fears unpredictable and uncontrolled consequences which would seriously affect Russian security interests,” the cable reads. “Experts tell us that Russia is particularly worried that the strong divisions in Ukraine over NATO membership, with much of the ethnic-Russian community against membership, could lead to a major split, involving violence or at worst, civil war. In that eventuality, Russia would have to decide whether to intervene; a decision Russia does not want to have to face. . . .”
“Dmitri Trenin, Deputy Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, expressed concern that Ukraine was, in the long-term, the most potentially destabilizing factor in U.S.-Russian relations, given the level of emotion and neuralgia triggered by its quest for NATO membership . . .” the cable read. “Because membership remained divisive in Ukrainian domestic politics, it created an opening for Russian intervention. Trenin expressed concern that elements within the Russian establishment would be encouraged to meddle, stimulating U.S. overt encouragement of opposing political forces, and leaving the U.S. and Russia in a classic confrontational posture.”
The Russian invasion of Ukraine would not have happened if the western alliance had honored its promises not to expand NATO beyond Germany’s borders and Ukraine had remained neutral. The pimps of war knew the potential consequences of NATO expansion. War, however, is their single minded vocation, even if it leads to a nuclear holocaust with Russia or China.
The war industry, not Putin, is our most dangerous enemy.
UKRAINE, SUNDAY, 2ND JULY
Ukraine is “preparing for a nuclear explosion” at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, a Ukrainian MP has said.
Kira Rudik said that Ukrainian authorities are “worried” about the potential for a nuclear explosion.
Pentagon says US 'looking into' reports of Russian missiles crossing into Poland
It comes after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky warned that a “serious threat” remains at the plant, claiming Russia was “technically ready” to provoke a localised explosion at the facility.
Nuclear experts have repeatedly raised concerns about the safety of the Zaporizhzhia plant since Russia seized control of the facility last March.
However, Moscow has dismissed suggestions it plans to attack or sabotage the power plant.
Both sides have accused each other of shelling near the plant.
Rudik told Sky News: “I still cannot process that in the 21st century this is what is happening. We are preparing for a nuclear explosion and the whole world is watching and there is nothing that can be done.”
She added it is “unprecedented” that Russia is not allowing UN officials into specific areas of the plant to carry out checks.
— The Independent
Those Hemingway wrote, and those he didn’t.
by Joan Didion (October 25, 1998)
In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves.
So goes the famous first paragraph of Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms,” which I was moved to reread by the recent announcement that what was said to be Hemingway’s last novel would be published posthumously next year. That paragraph, which was published in 1929, bears examination: four deceptively simple sentences, one hundred and twenty-six words, the arrangement of which remains as mysterious and thrilling to me now as it did when I first read them, at twelve or thirteen, and imagined that if I studied them closely enough and practiced hard enough I might one day arrange one hundred and twenty-six such words myself. Only one of the words has three syllables. Twenty-two have two. The other hundred and three have one. Twenty-four of the words are “the,” fifteen are “and.” There are are four commas. The liturgical cadence of the paragraph derives in part from the placement of the commas (their presence in the second and fourth sentences, their absence in the first and third), but also from that repetition of “the” and of “and,” creating a rhythm so pronounced that the omission of “the” before the word “leaves” in the fourth sentence (“and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling”) casts exactly what it was meant to cast, a chill, a premonition, a foreshadowing of the story to come, the awareness that the author has already shifted his attention from late summer to a darker season. The power of the paragraph, offering as it does the illusion but not the fact of specificity, derives precisely from this kind of deliberate omission, from the tension of withheld information. In the late summer of what year? What river, what mountains, what troops?
We all know the “life” of the man who wrote that paragraph. The rather reckless attractions of the domestic details became fixed in the national memory stream: Ernest and Hadley have no money, so they ski at Cortina all winter. Pauline comes to stay. Ernest and Hadley are at odds with each other over Pauline, so they all take refuge at Juan-les-Pins. Pauline catches cold, and recuperates at the Waldorf-Astoria. We have seen the snapshots: the celebrated author fencing with the bulls at Pamplona, fishing for marlin off Havana, boxing at Bimini, crossing the Ebro with the Spanish loyalists, kneeling beside “his” lion or “his” buffalo or “his” oryx on the Serengeti Plain. We have observed the celebrated author’s survivors, read his letters, deplored or found lessons in his excesses, in his striking of attitudes, in the humiliations of his claim to personal machismo, in the degradations both derived from and revealed by his apparent tolerance for his own celebrity.
“This is to tell you about a young man named Ernest Hemingway, who lives in Paris (an American), writes for the transatlantic review and has a brilliant future,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote to Maxwell Perkins in 1924. “I’d look him up right away. He’s the real thing.” By the time “the real thing” had seen his brilliant future both realized and ruined, he had entered the valley of extreme emotional fragility, of depressions so grave that by February of 1961, after the first of what would be two courses of shock treatment, he found himself unable to complete even the single sentence he had agreed to contribute to a ceremonial volume for President John F. Kennedy. Early on the Sunday morning of July 2, 1961, the celebrated author got out of his bed in Ketchum, Idaho, went downstairs, took a double-barrelled Boss shotgun from a storage room in the cellar, and emptied both barrels into the center of his forehead. “I went downstairs,” his fourth wife, Mary Welsh Hemingway, reported in her 1976 memoir, “How It Was,” saw a crumpled heap of bathrobe and blood, the shotgun lying in the disintegrated flesh, in the front vestibule of the sitting room.”
The didactic momentum of the biography was such that we sometimes forgot that this was a writer who had in his time made the English language new, changed the rhythms of the way both his own and the next few generations would speak and write and think. The very grammar of a Hemingway sentence dictated, or was dictated by, a certain way of looking at the world, a way of looking but not joining, a way of moving through but not attaching, a kind of romantic individualism distinctly adapted to its time and source. If we bought into those sentences, we would see the troops marching along the road, but we would not necessarily march with them. We would report, but not join. We would make, as Nick Adams made in the Nick Adams stories and as Frederic Henry made in “A Farewell to Arms,” a separate peace: “In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it any more.”
So pervasive was the effect of this Hemingway diction that it became the voice not only of his admirers but even of those whose approach to the world was in no way grounded in romantic individualism. I recall being surprised, when I was teaching George Orwell in a class at Berkeley in 1975, by how much of Hemingway could be heard in his sentences. “The hills opposite us were grey and wrinkled like the skins of elephants,” Orwell had written in “Homage to Catalonia” in 1938. “The hills across the valley of the Ebro were long and white,” Hemingway had written in “Hills Like White Elephants” in 1927. “A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outlines and covering up all the details,” Orwell had written in “Politics and the English Language” in 1946. “I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain,” Hemingway had written in “A Farewell to Arms” in 1929. “There were many words that you could not stand to hear and finally only the names of places had dignity.”
This was a man to whom words mattered. He worked at them, he understood them, he got inside them. When he was twenty-four years old and reading submissions to Ford Madox Ford’s transatlantic review he would sometimes try rewriting them, just for practice. His wish to be survived by only the words he determined fit for publication would have seemed clear enough. “I remember Ford telling me that a man should always write a letter thinking of how it would read to posterity,” he wrote to Arthur Mizener in 1950. “This made such a bad impression on me that I burned every letter in the flat including Ford’s.” In a letter dated May 20, 1958, addressed “To my Executors” and placed in his library safe at La Finca Vigia, he wrote, “It is my wish that none of the letters written by me during my lifetime shall be published. Accordingly, I hereby request and direct you not to publish or consent to the publication by others of any such letters.”
His widow and executor, Mary Welsh Hemingway, describing the burden of this restriction as one that “caused me continuous trouble, and disappointment to others,” eventually chose to violate it, publishing excerpts from certain letters in “How It Was” and granting permission to Carlos Baker to publish some six hundred others in his “Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters, 1917–1961.” “There can be no question about the wisdom and rightness of the decision,” Baker wrote, for the letters “will not only instruct and entertain the general reader but also provide serious students of literature with the documents necessary to the continuing investigation of the life and achievements of one of the giants of twentieth-century American fiction.”
The peculiarity of being a writer is that the entire enterprise involves the mortal humiliation of seeing one’s own words in print. The risk of publication is the grave fact of the life, and, even among writers less inclined than Hemingway to construe words as the manifest expression of personal honor, the notion that words one has not risked publishing should be open to “continuing investigation” by “serious students of literature” could not be calculated to kindle enthusiasm. “Nobody likes to be tailed,” Hemingway himself had in 1952 advised one such investigator, Charles A. Fenton of Yale, who on the evidence of the letters was tormenting Hemingway by sending him successive drafts of what would be “The Apprenticeship of Ernest Hemingway: The Early Years.” “You do not like to be tailed, investigated, queried about, by any amateur detective no matter how scholarly or how straight. You ought to be able to see that, Fenton.” A month later Hemingway tried again. “I think you ought to drop the entire project,” he wrote to Fenton, adding, “It is impossible to arrive at any truth without the co-operation of the person involved. That co-operation involves very nearly as much effort as for a man to write his autobiography.” A few months later, he was still trying:
In the first page or pages of your Mss. I found so many errors of fact that I could spend the rest of this winter re-writing and giving you the true gen and I would not be able to write anything of my own at all. . . . Another thing: You have located unsigned pieces by me through pay vouchers. But you do not know which pieces were changed or re-written by the copy desk and which were not. I know nothing worse for a writer than for his early writing which has been re-written and altered to be published without permission as his own.
Actually I know few things worse than for another writer to collect a fellow writer’s journalism which his fellow writer has elected not to preserve because it is worthless and publish it.
Mr. Fenton I feel very strongly about this. I have written you so before and I write you now again. Writing that I do not wish to publish, you have no right to publish. I would no more do a thing like that to you than I would cheat a man at cards or rifle his desk or wastebasket or read his personal letters.
It might seem safe to assume that a writer who commits suicide has been less than entirely engaged by the work he leaves unfinished, yet there appears to have been not much question about what would happen to the unfinished Hemingway manuscripts. These included not only “the Paris stuff” (as he called it), or “A Moveable Feast” (as Scribner’s called it), which Hemingway had in fact shown to Scribner’s in 1959 and then withdrawn for revision, but also the novels later published under the titles “Islands in the Stream” and “The Garden of Eden,” several Nick Adams stories, what Mrs. Hemingway called the “original treatment” of the bullfighting pieces published by Life before Hemingway’s death (this became “The Dangerous Summer”), and what she described as “his semi-fictional account of our African safari,” three selections from which she had published in Sports Illustrated in 1971 and 1972.
What followed was the systematic creation of a marketable product, a discrete body of work different in kind from, and in fact tending to obscure, the body of work published by Hemingway in his lifetime. So successful was the process of branding this product that in October, according to the House & Home section of the New York Times, Thomasville Furniture Industries introduced an “Ernest Hemingway Collection” at the International Home Furnishings Market in High Point, North Carolina, offering “96 pieces of living, dining and bedroom furniture and accessories” in four themes, “Kenya,” “Key West,” “Havana,” and “Ketchum.” “We don’t have many heroes today,” Marla A. Metzner, the president of Fashion Licensing of America, told the Times. “We’re going back to the great icons of the century, as heroic brands.” Ms. Metzner, according to the Times, not only “created the Ernest Hemingway brand with Hemingway’s three sons, Jack, Gregory and Patrick,” but “also represents F. Scott Fitzgerald’s grandchildren, who have asked for a Fitzgerald brand.”
That this would be the logical outcome of posthumous marketing cannot have been entirely clear to Mary Welsh Hemingway. During Hemingway’s lifetime, she appears to have remained cool to the marketing impulses of A. E. Hotchner, whose thirteen-year correspondence with Hemingway gives the sense that he regarded the failing author not as the overextended and desperate figure the letters suggest but as an infinite resource, a mine to be worked, an element to be packaged into his various entertainment and publishing “projects.” The widow tried to stop the publication of Hotchner’s “Papa Hemingway,” and, although the correspondence makes clear that Hemingway himself had both trusted and relied heavily on its author, presented him in her own memoir mainly as a kind of personal assistant, a fetcher of manuscripts, an arranger of apartments, a Zelig apparition in crowd scenes: “When the Ile de France docked in the Hudson River at noon, March 27, we were elated to find Charlie Sweeny, my favorite general, awaiting us, together with Lillian Ross, Al Horowitz, Hotchner and some others.”
In this memoir, which is memorable mainly for the revelation of its author’s rather trying mixture of quite striking competence and strategic incompetence (she arrives in Paris on the day it is liberated and scores a room at the Ritz, but seems bewildered by the domestic problem of how to improve the lighting of the dining room at La Finca Vigia), Mary Welsh Hemingway shared her conviction, at which she appears to have arrived in the face of considerable contrary evidence, that her husband had “clearly” expected her to publish “some, if not all, of his work.” The guidelines she set for herself in this task were instructive: “Except for punctuation and the obviously overlooked ‘ands’ and ‘buts’ we would present his prose and poetry to readers as he wrote it, letting the gaps lie where they were.”
Well, there you are. You care about the punctuation or you don’t, and Hemingway did. You care about the “ands” and the “buts” or you don’t, and Hemingway did. You think something is in shape to be published or you don’t, and Hemingway didn’t. “This is it; there are no more books,” Charles Scribner III told the New York Times by way of announcing the “Hemingway novel” to be published in July of 1999, to celebrate the centennial year of his birth. This piece of work, for which the title “True at First Light” was chosen from the text (“In Africa a thing is true at first light and a lie by noon and you have no more respect for it than for the lovely, perfect weed-fringed lake you see across the sun-baked salt plain”), is said to be the novel on which Hemingway was trying intermittently to work between 1954, when he and Mary Welsh Hemingway returned from the safari in Kenya which provides its narrative, and his suicide in 1961.
This “African novel” seems to have presented at first only the resistance that characterizes the early stage of any novel. In September of 1954, Hemingway wrote to Bernard Berenson from Cuba about the adverse effect of air-conditioning on this thing he was doing: “You get the writing done but it’s as false as though it were done in the reverse of a greenhouse. Probably I will throw it all away, but maybe when the mornings are alive again I can use the skeleton of what I have written and fill it in with the smells and the early noises of the birds and all the lovely things of this finca which are in the cold months very much like Africa.” In September of 1955, he wrote again to Berenson, this time on a new typewriter, explaining that he could not use his old one “because it has page 594 of the [African] book in it, covered over with the dust cover, and it is unlucky to take the pages out.” In November of 1955, he reported to Harvey Breit, of the New York Times, “Am on page 689 and wish me luck kid.” In January of 1956, he wrote to his attorney, Alfred Rice, that he had reached page 810.
There then falls, in the “Selected Letters,” a certain silence on the matter of this African novel. Eight-hundred and ten pages or no, there comes a point at which every writer knows when a book is not working, and every writer also knows when the reserves of will and energy and memory and concentration required to make the thing work simply may not be available. “You just have to go on when it is worst and most helpless—there is only one thing to do with a novel and that is go straight on through to the end of the damn thing,” Hemingway had written to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1929, when Fitzgerald was blocked on the novel that would be published in 1934 as “Tender Is the Night.”
In 1929, Hemingway was thirty. His concentration, or his ability to “go on when it is worst and most helpless,” was still such that he had continued rewriting “A Farewell to Arms” while trying to deal, in the aftermath of his father’s suicide in December of 1928, with the concerns of his mother, his sixteen-year-old sister, and his thirteen-year-old brother. “Realize of course that thing for me to do is not worry but get to work—finish my book properly so I can help them out with the proceeds,” he had written to Maxwell Perkins within days of his father’s funeral, and six weeks later he delivered the finished manuscript. He had seen one marriage destroyed, but not yet three. He was not yet living with the residue of the two 1954 plane crashes that had ruptured his liver, his spleen, and one of his kidneys, collapsed his lower intestine, crushed a vertebra, left first-degree burns on his face and head, and caused concussion and losses of vision and hearing. “Alfred this was a very rough year even before we smashed up in the air-craft,” he wrote to Alfred Rice, who had apparently questioned his tax deductions for the African safari:
But I have a diamond mine if people will let me alone and let me dig the stones out of the blue mud and then cut and polish them. If I can do it I will make more money for the Government than any Texas oilman that gets his depreciation. But I have been beat-up worse than you can be and still be around and I should be working steadily on getting better and then write and not think nor worry about anything else.
“The literal details of writing,” Norman Mailer once told an interviewer, “involve one’s own physiology or metabolism. You begin from a standing start and have to accelerate yourself to the point of cerebration where the words are coming—well, and in order. All writing is generated by a certain minimum of ego: you must assume a position of authority in saying that the way I’m writing it is the only way it happened. Writer’s block, for example, is simply a failure of ego.” In August of 1956, Hemingway advised Charles Scribner, Jr., that he had “found it impossible to resume work on the Africa book without some disciplinary writing,” and so was writing short stories.
In November of 1958, he mentioned to one of his children that he wanted to “finish book” during a winter stay in Ketchum, but the “book” at issue was now “the Paris stuff.” In April of 1960, he told Scribner to scratch this still untitled Paris book from the fall list: “Plenty of people will probably think that we have no book and that it is like all the outlines that Scott had and borrowed money on that he never could have finished but you know that if I did not want the chance to make it even better it could be published exactly as you saw it with a few corrections of Mary’s typing.” Ten months later, and five months before his death, in a letter written to his editor at Scribner’s between the two courses of shock treatment administered to him at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, the writer tried, alarmingly, to explain what he was doing:
Have material arranged as chapters—they come to 18—and am working on the last one—No 19—also working on title. This is very difficult. (Have my usual long list—something wrong with all of them but am working toward it—Paris has been used so often it blights anything.) In pages typed they run 7, 14, 5, 6, 9 1/2, 6, 11, 9, 8, 9, 4 1/2, 3 1/2, 8, 10 1/2, 14 1/2, 38 1/2, 10, 3, 3: 177 pages + 5 1/2 pages + 1 1/4 pages.
I recall listening, some years ago at a dinner party in Berkeley, to a professor of English present “The Last Tycoon” as irrefutable proof that F. Scott Fitzgerald was a bad writer. The assurance with which this judgment was offered so stunned me that I had let it slip into the donnée of the evening before I managed to object. “The Last Tycoon,” I said, was an unfinished book, one we had no way of judging because we had no way of knowing how Fitzgerald might have finished it. But of course we did, another guest said, and others joined in: We had Fitzgerald’s “notes,” we had Fitzgerald’s “outline,” the thing was “entirely laid out.” Only one of us at the table that evening, in other words, saw a substantive difference between writing a book and making notes for it, or “outlining it,” or “laying it out.”
The most chilling scene ever filmed must be, for a writer, that moment in “The Shining” when Shelley Duvall looks at the manuscript on which her husband has been working and sees, typed over and over again on each of the hundreds of pages, only the single line: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” The manuscript for what became “True at First Light” was, as Hemingway left it, some eight hundred and fifty pages long. The manuscript as edited for publication is half that. This editing was done by Hemingway’s son Patrick, who has said that he limited his editing to condensing (which inevitably works to alter what the author may have intended, as anyone who has been condensed knows), changing only some of the place names, which may or may not have seemed a logical response to the work of the man who wrote “There were many words that you could not stand to hear and finally only the names of places had dignity.”
This question of what should be done with what a writer leaves unfinished goes back to, and is conventionally answered by, citing works we might have lost had the dying wishes of their authors been honored. Virgil’s Aeneid is mentioned. Fralfz Kafka’s “The Trial” and “The Castle” are mentioned. In 1951, clearly shadowed by mortality, Hemingway judged that certain parts of a long four-part novel on which he had been working for a number of years were sufficiently “finished” to be published after his death, and specified his terms, which did not include the intrusion of any editorial hand and specifically excluded the publication of the unfinished first section. “The last two parts need no cutting at all,” he wrote to Charles Scribner in 1951. “The third part needs quite a lot but it is very careful scalpel work and would need no cutting if I were dead. . . . The reason that I wrote you that you could always publish the last three parts separately is because I know you can in case through accidental death or any sort of death I should not be able to get the first part in proper shape to publish.”
Hemingway himself, the following year, published the fourth part of this manuscript separately, as “The Old Man and the Sea.” The “first part” of the manuscript, the part not yet “in proper shape to publish,” was, after his death, nonetheless published, as part of “Islands in the Stream.” In the case of the “African novel,” or “True at First Light,” eight hundred and fifty pages reduced by half by someone other than their author can go nowhere the author intended them to go, but they can provide the occasion for a chat-show hook, a faux controversy over whether the part of the manuscript in which the writer on safari takes a Wakamba bride does or does not reflect a “real” event. The increasing inability of many readers to construe fiction as anything other than roman à clef, or the raw material of biography, is both indulged and encouraged. The New York Times, in its announcement of the publication of the manuscript, quoted Patrick Hemingway to this spurious point: “ ‘Did Ernest Hemingway have such an experience?’ he said from his home in Bozeman, Mont. ‘I can tell you from all I know—and I don’t know everything—he did not.’ ”
This is a denial of the idea of fiction, just as the publication of unfinished work is a denial of the idea that the role of the writer in his or her work is to make it. Those excerpts from “True at First Light” already published can be read only as something not yet made, notes, scenes in the process of being set down, words set down but not yet written. There are arresting glimpses here and there, fragments shored against what the writer must have seen as his ruin, and a sympathetic reader might well believe it possible that had the writer lived (which is to say had the writer found the will and energy and memory and concentration) he might have shaped the material, written it into being, made it work as the story the glimpses suggest, that of a man returning to a place he loved and finding himself at three in the morning confronting the knowledge that he is no longer the person who loved it and will never now be the person he had meant to be. But of course such a possibility would have been in the end closed to this particular writer, for he had already written that story, in 1936, and called it “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” “Now he would never write the things that he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well,” the writer in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” thought as he lay dying of gangrene in Africa. And then, this afterthought, the saddest story: “Well, he would not have to fail at trying to write them either.”