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A WETTER PATTERN will develop late in the weekend and into early next week, with locally heavy rainfall possible across Del Norte and Humboldt counties on Monday. Southerly winds will increase on Sunday with windy conditions persisting to Monday. (NWS)
STEPHEN DUNLAP (Fort Bragg): A foggy 52F this first full day of fall with some clearing later. Mostly cloudy for Sunday then rain on Monday into Tuesday morning. The amount of rain forecast is higher every time I check.
A COUNTY FAIR CARNY WAS FOUND DEAD of an apparent drug overdose at the Boonville Fairgrounds Friday morning before the Fair's noon opening. A second carny was found unconscious, but was revived by a combination of CPR, medical assistance and narcan. Authorities would not confirm the drug overdose until after an autopsy, but given that the second casualty was revived by narcan drug overdoses seem likely. The deceased was found to possess drug paraphernalia and what appeared to be narcotics. Out of an abundance of caution, the carnival rides and operators, which we understand are being operated by a new vendor this year, were re-inspected by law enforcement and the carnival opening delayed until later Friday afternoon. The carnival company rep on scene was said to be fully cooperative with law enforcement as an investigation of the staff, the equipment and the grounds was conducted. By 3pm Sheriff’s deputies had cleared the scene and declared the carnival safe to open.
MENDOCINO COUNTY FAIR & APPLE SHOW, this weekend…
AN ATMOSPHERIC RIVER-FUELED STORM IS HEADED TO CALIFORNIA
by Anthony Edwards
Astronomical fall begins Friday night, and autumn storms are already knocking on California’s door.
A major September storm is forecast to bring heavy rains and strong winds to Washington, Oregon and Northern California beginning Sunday night. Heavy rain is expected Monday in Seattle, Portland, Redding and Eureka, which could challenge some September rainfall records.
A soaking rain is likely in the North Bay, while lighter showers could extend into the Peninsula, East Bay and Santa Clara Valley.
Rainfall totals in Northern California are likely to range 1-5 inches in the lowlands and up to 6 inches in the coastal range above 1,000 feet. Strong winds gusting up to 50 mph are also possible with this storm.
The jet stream is forecast to strengthen across the Pacific Ocean this weekend, pushing an atmospheric river all the way from Japan to the western U.S. Atmospheric rivers are ribbons of moisture that can ferry large amounts of moisture thousands of miles through the sky.
Weather models predict a strong low-pressure system will interact with the atmospheric river, condensing it into heavy precipitation as it slams into the West Coast.
“This low-pressure system is quite strong in the forecast for this event,” said Chad Hecht, a meteorologist with the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “But it’s mostly forecast to stay offshore and kind of spin around off the coast of Alaska and British Columbia, and not move onshore until it weakens.”
On Sunday, rain associated with the system’s warm front will move from south to north across Southern Oregon to the Canadian border. By Sunday night, showers will turn to widespread heavy rain along the coast as a cold front approaches California.
Strong southerly winds are likely along the coast Sunday night through Monday, gusting up to 50 mph.
Monday will be the wettest day in Northern California, as a cold front moves from west to east. By Tuesday night, Eureka could receive 2 to 3 inches of precipitation. Up to an inch and a half of rain is forecast in Fort Bragg and Redding.
The cold front will weaken upon its approaches to the Bay Area on Monday afternoon, but widespread rain is likely all the way into the North Bay. Half an inch of rain is probable in Santa Rosa, with higher amounts north of Healdsburg.
Rain showers could extend all the way south into San Francisco and Oakland, but weather models have been waffling back and forth between a trace to a quarter inch.
By Tuesday afternoon, weather models predict rain will taper to scattered showers in the Bay Area while widespread rainfall continues in far northwestern California and the Pacific Northwest. As the storm winds down Tuesday night, total accumulations are likely to be 1-5 inches between Redding and Seattle.
Another storm is likely to impact the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday and Thursday, but weather models suggest only about a 20% chance that its rainfall extends into the Bay Area.
The Weather Prediction Center forecasts a marginal risk of flash flooding Monday along the coastal Oregon-California border, including drought-plagued Del Norte County. However, early-season atmospheric river storms typically don’t cause widespread flooding, because dry soils have the capacity to soak up rainfall.
“It doesn’t look like it’s going to be extreme rainfall,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with UCLA, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the Nature Conservancy, during an online presentation Thursday. Swain noted that so far the risk for the rains to trigger debris flows on recently burned areas is not high and predicted the storm will be more beneficial than hazardous.
"In far Northern California this could potentially be the end (of fire season), especially if it's followed up by another (rain) event," Swain said. "In Central California this will not mark the end of fire season, but it certainly won't make fire season worse, and it already hasn't been severe fire season there."
Swain said periodic offshore winds in October could mark a return of fire weather, but if another storm follows in the wake of next week's rain, the fire season will almost certainly come to an end.
Winds could reach advisory or warning criteria along the Northern California and Oregon coast on Monday. Weather models predict sustained winds of 35 mph with gusts exceeding 50 mph as a strong low-pressure system spins offshore.
The National Weather Service forecasts the snow level to remain at 8,000-9,000 feet during the duration of the storm, meaning only the highest peaks could see frozen precipitation.
LOUISE SIMSON (School Superintendent, AVUSD):
Dear Anderson Valley Community,
Fair is definitely in the air. It was wonderful to go this evening and watch our Panther football team achieve a big, but sportsman-like, win over Laytonville with a nice crowd. Congratulations Coach Toohey and to the ever-present Booster Mom Palma Toohey! The cheer team also performed an energetic routine at half time under the direction of Yesenia Pena. Beth Sweha’s FFA displays were everywhere, Steve Rhoades and his welding class displayed student-made barbecues, and students and families were enjoying themselves. The senior class was working hard on fundraising with those delicious baked potatoes under the guidance of Marcela Mendoza and Arthur Folz, and they also striped the parking lot. One of those tasty baked potatoes will be enough food for two days! The Apple Fair is truly a unique small town wonder.
So, amidst all this small town wonderfulness, I felt a little sad. One person died at the fairgrounds this morning and another came close. And this is not unusual in this county. Every day, our staff works with teenagers that are addicted to substances. Somehow, all of this has just become part of our “normal”. Just like cell phones were part of our old normal. I would really like to challenge this community that, for at least school students, we need to really take seriously that drugs are not normal, and that includes Cannabis edibles, vape, joints and Fentaynyl. I know in this county, we have many families that make an honest and legal living out of Cannabis. I don’t have a problem with that for adults. I do have a problem with it for kids. I know I sound like a broken record, but I truly believe that sometimes you need to show kids what they need because they don’t know. Yes, they need to have independence, but they also need to have incredible guidance. I will be the first to admit that I know there are difficulties with kids buying stuff at school. We expel whenever possible, if we find that. It is unacceptable. I’m just asking you to help us, help your kids. It made me just beyond sad today in light of the morning events at the fair, when I had to ask our trained staff over the loudspeaker to take their Narcan that they have stored in their classroom in case the worst ever happens at the fair. That shouldn’t be in anybody’s playbook that works with kids. I can’t change it alone, our staff can’t change it, we have to do it together.
In happier news…
Cora Hubbert is now working at the Adult School. She is the daughter of retiree Leslie Hubbert. She has a brief survey that she would like to have everyone participate in if possible, so the Adult School can determine how to serve the community. Here are the links:
The septic at the elementary school is quickly on its way to completion. The contractor was digging up the pavement to drop in the big tank. After a marathon appointment at the Department of State Architects, we finally received our project permit for the high school. Our architect has created the bid documents for the high school modernization. Those will be sent out for bid walk and final bid openings in late Fall. Construction is slated to run from the minute school is out in June, probably through December 2024. We will be in some temporary classrooms in a couple of rooms during that time. Unavoidable, but we will make it as comfortable as possible.
The high school after school program is doing some wonderful things like bringing in an esthetician to teach skin and hair care and the kickboxing class and creating a construction class. Please sign your student up for this program, even if it is one day a week. We have to demonstrate to the State that these funds are being used in a viable way. Help us, help your kids create clubs that they want to do. Kids can suggest a club and Robbie Lane looks at how to create it. Also, please see me as your students pull their drivers ed permits. We can support the behind the wheel training free of charge, but it must be done during school hours with our provider.
Don’t forget at the elementary school we have a wonderful Back-to-School night on Wednesday, September 27 and we hope that you will join us!
For the Saturday and Winter School, there are some date adjustments pending. We will send out that information asap.
Just a reminder that Monday is a non-student day. Teachers will be working on a variety of seminars and collaborating to improve your students’ learning experience -- plus your kids will need the extra sleep after all the fair fun!
Have a safe and happy weekend!
RICHARDSON GROVE HIT&RUN FATALITY
On Wednesday, September 20, 2023 at approximately 1:30pm, a pedestrian was walking from a trail on the west roadway edge of US-101, south of the Richardson Grove State Park entrance. Based on witness statements, the pedestrian stopped just west of the west roadway edge on the dirt shoulder awaiting a family member. At that time, a vehicle which was later identified as a 2010 Black Toyota Tundra, driven by Earl Castillo of Leggett, was traveling southbound on US-101. Castillo allowed the Toyota to travel off the west roadway edge and crashed with the pedestrian standing on the dirt shoulder. Castillo failed to stop at the crash scene, fleeing southbound on US-101. Shortly after the crash, CHP personnel arrived on scene. CHP located vehicle parts identifying the involved vehicle as black Toyota pickup. This information was broadcast via CHP Dispatch and a be on the lookout for the involved vehicle was requested. Multiple Cal-Trans employees who heard the broadcast observed the Toyota matching the description and called it in to CHP dispatch. While traveling on US-101, two officers observed the Toyota and attempted to make an enforcement stop. The Toyota failed to yield to the patrol vehicle's lights and sirens and traveled northbound at a high rate of speed. The Toyota attempted to flee up a private driveway but due to a locked gate, was unable to continue. Officers conducted a high risk stop and detained Castillo. Evidence from the scene and damage Castillo's Toyota were consistent with the vehicle's involvement in the crash. Upon evaluation, Castillo was determined to be DUI and was placed under arrest for DUI Causing Physical Harm, felony hit&run with injury, vehicular manslaughter, probation violation, and evasion. Castillo was transported to the Humboldt County Jail and booked on the above charges. Due to the nature of the crash and charges, a bail enhancement was requested and granted.
The California Highway Patrol Garberville Area is conducting follow-up and ask if anyone observed the actual crash or the Toyota fleeing the scene to please call the office at 707-932-6100.
The Garberville Area CHP would like to thank citizens who stopped at the scene and rendered aid. The following agencies assisted with this investigation: Cal-trans, Garberville Fire, Cal-Fire, City Ambulance, and State Parks.
UKIAH CONSTRUCTION UPDATES FOR THE WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 25
On the south side (Mill to Gobbi), crews will continue installing the new water infrastructure. Most of the main line is in; next week, the “services” or “laterals” will be going in. These are the perpendicular lines that bring water from the main line to each of the buildings. Again, work will proceed northbound from Gobbi to Mill. For the safety of the crews and for traffic control, the traffic signals at Gobbi and Mill will remain in “flash” mode, which means the intersection should be treated like a four-way stop. No interruptions to utility service are planned, and access to all properties will be maintained.
On the north side (Norton to Henry), construction crews will continue work on the “joint trench,” which will hold the new underground electric lines, as well as phone and cable lines. In contract to the water and sewer work, this part of the project will start on the south side (near Henry) and move north to Norton. Next week, trenching will occur primarily in front of 456 and 476 N State, which will require the temporary closure of some driveways. Property/business owners will be notified in advance regarding specific days/times. Immediately upon the completion of work, steel plates will be placed across the trench to allow vehicular access.
Looking ahead (North): Weather permitting, sidewalk demolition is scheduled to begin around the first week of October. As with Phase One, temporary, ADA-compliant sidewalks will be installed with base rock immediately following demolition. Also, we are committed to not demolishing any sections that can’t be replaced with new in a reasonable period of time.
Have a great weekend!
Shannon Riley, Deputy City Manager
City of Ukiah
300 Seminary Avenue
Ukiah, California 95482
WE'RE PULLING FOR YOU, CRAIG!
Life and Death
Warmest Spiritual Greetings, Awoke September 7th at midnight, unable to breathe properly and shaking with the chills. Arriving by ambulance at Adventist Health-Ukiah Valley, the ER team went to work. Was placed in an ICU, had zoom meetings with the infectious diseases dept. and was treated for a viral bacterial blood infection and pneumonia. Was eventually transferred to the Cloverdale Healthcare Ctr. way up Cherry Creek Road. A Medline in the right arm allowed for two days of continuous IV antibiotics, in addition to the general services provided. Afternoons may be spent comfortably seated on the outdoor furniture enjoying the soft Alexander Valley breeze, the gentle church bells, and bird watching. Will be discharged Friday at 3PM. A staffperson from Ukiah’s Building Bridges is picking me up. Thanks for listening.
Craig Louis Stehr
POINT ARENA City Council Meeting September 26, 2023, 6PM
(Other than routine business)
A) Second Hearing of Ordinance 242 Amending the City of Point Arena Local Coastal Program to Regulate Accessory Dwelling Units
OPUS CHAMBER MUSIC Series presents the Sor String Quartet! This Sunday at 3 PM at Preston Hall, Mendocino
Program includes string quartets by Hector Villa Lobos, Anton Webern, Florence Price and Joseph Haydn.
Get your tickets online at symphonyoftheredwoods-bloom.kindful.com/e/opus-1-2023-2024 at Harvest Market in Fort Bragg or at Out of this World.
This is the first concert of the season and season tickets will be available as well as Cookies, coffee, tea and more!
THE PLANNERS ARE BUSY PLANNING, AND SOMEDAY…
Agenda and Staff Reports for 10-5-23 Planning Commission Meeting
Dear Interested Parties,
The Staff Report(s) and Agenda for the October 5, 2023, Planning Commission meeting is now available on the department website at: mendocinocounty.org/government/planning-building-services/meeting-agendas/planning-commission
Please contact staff if there are any questions,
Commission Services Supervisor
County of Mendocino Department of Planning & Building Services
Main Line: 707-234-6650
POINT IN TIME COUNT, an exchange…
The Homeless Point In Time Count…
The count is extremely inaccurate and should not be used for anything other than a bad example. I have participated in the PIT for several years. It used to start early in the morning maybe around 5am. The idea was to count people where they sleep as to not duplicate the numbers. Later this was deemed dangerous to the counters so they switched to counting tents and cars along with bodies. Small tents account for one person whether occupied or abandoned. Large tents account for up to three. Small cars account for 1-2 people and campers and rvs again count for 2-4 regardless of how many may be inside.
This years count started much later in the day. In Fort Bragg we counted unhoused on the first day while the Emergency Winter Shelter was open. The sheltered were to be counted another day. So starting later-in the am after the folks in the shelter had to leave their rooms these folks were undoubtedly counted as unsheltered. The next day they were again counted as sheltered.
Having a count is without a doubt important. How else will we be able to gage the issue. Having an accurate count apparently is not. In my opinion it is a bureaucratic tool used to justify funding a program that does not work.
Thanks for that feedback on the PIT count. I’m a numbers person and had wondered about the methodology. I had signed up to help with the count this year to see for myself but backed out after hurting my shoulder two days before. In the report on methodology, they mention they made changes in how they conducted the Point In Time count, including when they started as Bernie Norvell mentions. To get an accurate count, they should stick to the same method as closely as possible year after year. Even if the numbers are not perfectly accurate, the trend should be fairly accurate which is more important than the actual numbers themselves.
Just personal observation in Ukiah is that is has gotten worse in terms of numbers of people over the last few years. Driving and walking around, I start to recognize quite a few of the people. Some seem new to our area having arrived, or become homeless, just in the last year. Some people I recognize as they are people I have known so they are not new to the area but new to being homeless.
2021 was a bad year. I was still volunteering for the Fire Department then. March 2021, there were 30 responses where Narcan was administered within the first three weeks. That doesn’t include the Narcan flash mobs where citizens on the street saw someone in distress, administered Narcan and the person had left before responders arrived. I would think that those working with the homeless population would have a rough idea of how many were lost just by not seeing them coming to receive services, like a hot meal at Plowshares. Yes, it would be a grim statistic to include and somewhat anecdotal but I think it should be included for accuracy because while important, the numbers don’t tell the whole story and as you mention, can be inaccurate. What’s most important is to know the direction we are going.
The PIT count-
Unnecessary … Collaborate integrate. Technology…
Every homeless person is receiving some service. Wether it be Redwood Community Services, Buildin Bridges, Plowshares, the Emergency Room, and jail.
The unhoused people with untreated Serious Mental Illness and addiction are the most vulnerable and least likely to be counted and the least likely to get any service except jail. “Jake Kooy” is a prime example! They are on the move a lot!
I can never remember the name of the homeless service program for tracking. Is it HMIS? That needs to be updated and utilized for accurate counting!
* * *
A comment regarding the Asha Kreimer case.
So sad that her condition was completely underestimated by the hospital and the crisis worker.
But what else is new?
I have had direct experience with this happening more than once.
In regards to some of the comments.
Money and family do not make the illness better. It still exists and is not going to prevent a person from experiencing symptoms of the illness.
The system is specifically set up in a way that keeps families from helping! And you bet your ass that’s no mistake! It actually does a very good job of feeding the delusions and disconnection when someone has a brain illness. That is why people with Serious Mental Illness become homeless, because the system does not support the family and the family has nowhere to turn when a person they love is becoming more and more unstable and disconnected from reality. It is frightening.
THE MARBUT REPORT on Mendo’s implementation of the Homeless Management Information System:
“Mendocino County’s HMIS (Homeless Management Information System) participation rates are significantly lower than general participation rates within California. The existing HMIS data is thus “thin,” which limits meaningful strategic decision making based on HMIS data. For the most part, HMIS data is currently limited to the Federal requirements and does not provide a rich enough understanding of the “uniquenesses” that exist within Mendocino County. Additionally, the lack of universal quality data allows unvalidated “myths” to become operational “facts,” thus hindering thoughtful strategic decision making. This lack of quality real-time data also prevents the “system” from being integrated and coordinated, and weakens the coordinated entry system. Currently the HMIS system is predominantly being used as a “score-keeper” for Federal compliance, and is not being utilized to coordinate master case management nor is it being used to track individual recovery plans.
”Going forward, HMIS could become much more robust and powerful, and HMIS could move from being a passive score-keeper to being a proactive case management tool within a truly integrated case management system. A high functioning and universally utilized HMIS system could become the e-backbone to a ‘County-wide virtual case management system.’
”In order to promote universal agency participation, all funding to any service agency provided by any governmental source and/or from a foundation should become contingent on the service agency being a proactive participant within HMIS. Carrots need to be created to encourage agencies to use HMIS, likewise, there must be financial consequences for not using HMIS.
”Additionally, in order to maximize agency use of HMIS, a system-wide all-agency information release-form should be developed and utilized by all agencies. Simply put, HMIS data entry needs to be in “real-time,” it needs to be universal and it needs to extend well beyond HUD-funded programs in order to facilitate coordination of care across the entire service Continuum of Care (CoC).”
Mendo has lots of information about HMIS and its procedures and forms, but provides no actual data or reports.
MIKE GENIELLA: This Mendocino County factoid popped up today, noting my paternal grandmother's birthday. She was born in Coyote Valley actually. The family home was adjacent to the old Cleveland Mill at the north end of what is now Lake Mendocino. Her parents, John F. Burns and Sophia Knox Burns, arrived in Mendocino County in 1857 with other family members. My great-grandfather's half brother was Shird (Sheridan) Burris of the Potter Valley clan. After Sophia Knox Burns, a native of Maine who died in 1870 at age 42, was buried in the Potter Valley Cemetery, John Burns and his youngest children including my grandmother moved onto Southern California. At age 20, Sarah Ann Burns met and married my grandfather, John Geniella, in Los Angeles. He was 20 years her senior. Their last child, my father, was born when John Geniella was age 63.
NBC INVESTIGATES the Derek Hendry abuse allegations (December, 2022)
The Willits Police Department has been largely silent for months about why Derek Hendry, a former officer with the department, is under criminal investigation. Now, in an interview with NBC Bay Area, a local woman says Hendry sexually assaulted her multiple times over a period of years. Police won't say if her accusations are linked to their investigation…
CATCH OF THE DAY, Thursday, September 21, 2023
TIFFANY BAIRRINE-HART, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
THOMAS COOK, Ukiah. Vandalism.
JOHN DEMERY, Sacramento/Ukiah. DUI.
ALIYAH FELIZ, Redwood Valley. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
DENA MORRIS, Ukiah. Paraphernalia, parole violation. (Frequent flyer.)
RICHARD ORTIZ, Ukiah. Protective order violation, probation revocation.
NORMAN PARKS, Ukiah. Parole violation.
SOYRIA RAMOS, Ukiah. Paraphernalia, probation revocation.
ROBERT SANCHEZ, Houston, Texas/Ukiah. Domestic battery.
REYNALDA SANTIAGO, Ukiah. Domestic battery.
CAMILLE STEELE, Ukiah. Stolen vehicle, controlled substance, failure to appear.
RONALD VALENTINE JR., Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol. (Frequent flyer.)
SHAWN WANT SR., Covelo. Controlled substance while armed with loaded firearm, armed with firearm in commission of felony, evasion, resisting.
RYAN WHITMAN JR., Albion. Grand theft.
MATTHEW WILLIAMS, Oakland. Mandatory supervision violation.
APPROACHING 60TH ANNIVERSARY of Community Mental Health Act of 1963, the Biden-Harris Administration Awards Nearly $130 Million to Expand Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics Across US
The Community Mental Health Act of 1963, passed as part of John F. Kennedy's New Frontier, established a system of community-based care, instead of institutional care, across the U.S. for people with mental illness. Today’s announcement helps deliver on that promise by strengthening the care available in the community. “CCBHCs serve anyone who asks for help for mental health or substance use, regardless of their ability to pay, and in turn, people being served by CCBHCs experience less homelessness, less illegal substance use, and reduced use of jails, prisons, emergency rooms and hospitals for behavioral health issues,” said Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and the leader of SAMHSA. “This is a model of care that truly works to serve the whole community.”
* * *
Spotlight on Mendocino County - Measure of America: A Program of the Social Science Research Council
(via Betsy Cawn)
ASK AMY TRIBUNE
This morning I was reading the Ukiah Daily Journal and came upon Ask Amy section. I have been responding of late because sometimes it pertains to issues I’m interested in. Today’s topic,
“Worrying about the future,” discusses how the board member (a) dedicated and (b) a board member announced a new and unrealistic financial, giving expectation for all board members. (a) dedicated spoke with the executive who shot her down. It is damaging to set board members of to fail. (End quote)
Her what’s her best option here? Should she get more involved, or step back? Amy took get more involved; myself I’d see the Executive’s conduct as the end to a quickly sinking ship harming the community as well. This issue points to the core warning regarding one bad apple ruins the board member’s future. I would have been observant and quiet.
MEMO OF THE AIR: Good Night Radio show is on all night tonight!
Soft deadline to email your writing for tonight's (Friday night's) MOTA show is 6 or 7pm. If you can't make that, send it whenever it's done and I'll read it on the radio next week.
Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio is every Friday, 9pm to 5am PST on 107.7fm KNYO-LP Fort Bragg as well as via KNYO.org. Also the schedule is there for KNYO's many other terrific shows and projects, including how to get on the Movie Night list for info about coming attractions at the storefront.
Furthermore, you can always go to https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com and hear last week's MOTA show. By Saturday night I'll put up the recording of tonight's show. And you'll find plenty of eye-and-ear-opening material there to splash around your sensorium until showtime, or any time, such as:
Il piccolo violino magico. Multi piccolo, multi violino, multi magico all day long. (via John Sacowicz, three of whose long new poems will be in tonight's MOTA show)
The entire history of the Stone Age in ten minutes. (via NagOnTheLake)
And 5784. It's this year in Hebrew as of last weekend.
Marco McClean, email@example.com, www.MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com
AND SOMETIMES I have kept my feelings to myself, because I could find no language to describe them in.
― Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility
by Marilyn Davin
Well, it had to happen one day. After three jury trials, two as jury foreman, I was booted out of a jury pool last week on Round #2 of juror questioning. So much had changed since I was last on a jury in my home county of Contra Costa that I hardly recognized the place. The court’s jam-packed parking lot, the only free parking available that I could find, was ringed with by scores of unclaimed “reserved” parking spaces with “No Juror Parking” signs. The downtown meters were for just two hours, max.
So after squeezing into a “compact” parking space in my VW bug between two SUV behemoths, I managed to scissor myself out of the car to hoof it over to the courthouse. En route, the sidewalk skirted the multi-story concrete jail, where several signs ominously warned that talking to an inmate could lead to arrest. Geeez, I could be arrested for saying hello to an inmate? And I hadn’t even seen the official video yet in the jury assembly room about the transcendent importance of the individual rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. A homeless man was asleep on a wooden bench along the sidewalk leading to the next-door hallowed halls of law and order. He had wrapped himself in plastic wrap against the morning chill, but was still trembling even after I gave him my sweater.
Then it was on to the jury assembly room, a cavernous space filled with row after row of folding chairs. Two smiling and perky young women checked us all in. So far so good.
Then the video began. First off, nearly every judge, attorney, and interviewee featured in the video was Black, Asian, or another non-White female even though, according to the last census, Contra Costa County had 2.48 times more White (Non-Hispanic) residents than any other race or ethnicity. If your only source of information were that video, you’d be tempted to think that there are but a scant handful of White folks living in the county. This video was to be the first of three what I call the “fifth-grade civic lessons” delivered to jurors on Day #1.
Not that anybody noticed much; nearly everyone was deep into a cell phone or other electronic device. A few old-school jury hopefuls were reading physical books. I didn’t see anyone who was actually asleep, however.
Once the “why America is the freest, most democratic country on Earth” video mercifully ended, we were escorted to our assigned courtroom. About 50 of us were crammed into either the jury box, where seat numbers were taped to the backs of the seats, the first row of seats, also numbered, or into the two numberless back rows. The judge then introduced the prosecutor, the public defender, and the defendant, by name only, and read the three DUI-related charges against the defendant.
After enduring the obligatory fifth-grade civics lesson for the second time that day, the judge was matter-of-fact, and after apologizing ad nauseum for interrupting our lives to schlep our hard-working behinds down to the courthouse, he asked a few general questions about juror availability: the ability to communicate (as one example, an Hispanic woman did not speak English), or any other personal circumstances that would make jury service prohibitively difficult.
The general hand-wringing and manufactured concern, delivered oh so soulfully, struck me as unseemly as well as insincere. A more convincing approach might have been a more direct admonition that if one of us landed in the defendant’s seat one day (quite likely after hearing the scores of alcohol-related horror stories shared by the potential jurors), wouldn’t we want a jury of our peers?
I was much more personally aligned with the philosophy of a judge in the same courthouse on a different trial years ago. After hearing a sob story from a first-line supervisor about how his corporation would go under without his diligent daily attention, His Honor didn’t miss a beat before denying the guy’s “business über alles” excuse. He told the self-important candidate juror that the interests of business never trump the interests of justice. How times have changed…
So, about the “peer” part. I knew nothing about the defendant since I was dumped during the jury selection process, so about all I can say about him is that he was White and looked fortyish and muscle-bound in his stiff black suit. As noted, the 50 or so prospective jurors in my group were mostly White retirees. Only a handful appeared to be around the defendant’s age or younger, disappointing in my view as the younger generation we created will ultimately inherit the mess we’ve made of their country.
The two attorneys then rose separately to question the prospective jurors after dragging a heavy wooden podium to their respective sides of the counsel table and fiddling with the goose-necked microphone, which appeared ill suited to the podium’s slanted surface. Just as we’ll all be old and feeble one day if we’re lucky to live that long, we were all young and inexperienced once and endured the humiliating pains of actually learning how to practice our newly minted chosen professions in the outside world.
Perhaps even more than in other professions, the effective practice of law depends on experience; studying law and passing the bar are of course requirements, but they don’t teach you how to be a lawyer. I note this because both attorneys on this case were young women closer to my grandson’s age than my daughter’s. Striding purposely to and from the podium in their skirted suits and high heels, both had carefully crafted the professional image so critical for young, attractive women just starting out in high-stakes, dog-eat-dog professions like trial law. It’s a lot to take in.
Both attorneys’ lack of experience was unfortunately clear as they questioned us individually, especially when it came to hypothetical examples used to illustrate legal principles. At one point the judge frowned and provided his own example. To probe the limits of juror empathy, the prosecutor asked each of us if we would convict a 70-year-old man (probably the oldest person she could imagine…) charged with stealing a loaf of bread if his crime was proved beyond a reasonable doubt. A few of the younger members of the group struggled with their responses, probably in part because they had spent their lives believing that they should help the old and poor.
The prosecutor pressed on in her effort to promote the principle that “the law is the law” and must be treated accordingly – no exceptions, no pity for the accused no matter how insignificant the alleged offense. This line of questioning and thinly veiled attempt to extract law-and-order pledges from individuals disgusted me and was probably my Waterloo on the path to trial.
I thought of the family that hid Anne Frank and her family in their three-story Amsterdam home during the Nazis’ World War II pogrom to exterminate Europe’s Jewry, and also of all the monuments in this country erected in recognition of courageous Americans who risked their lives to protest against and even openly defy unjust laws. I guess in the eyes of American jurisprudence today that long-ago Dutch family should have called the cops to bring the Auschwitz-bound paddy wagon around to collect the Jews, whose only crime was being alive in the wrong place at the wrong time.
At this trial there was no mention of the spirit of the law or of nuances of any kind to the black-and-white blind adherence to the much ballyhooed letter of the law. When the question came around to me I said I was appalled by the hypothesis, that the stolen bread example cheapened and trivialized the role of human empathy, which is an irreplaceable and inextinguishable component of being human. “Thank you for your service,” said the judge. “The bailiff will give you your proof of duty, which you need to clip to your juror badge on your way out.”
This latest jury experience deepened my already outsized cynicism about the path we’re trudging along as a country. The preachy fifth-grade civics lessons to me revealed, in part, the court’s lack of confidence in the jury pool’s basic knowledge of American civics. I get that nobody has to pass a four-hour exam on the U.S. Constitution in eighth grade to enter high school anymore like I did in this very same county back in the day, but in our current era of insidious online misinformation, ubiquitous TV, and a crisis of confidence in our institutions, maybe it’s time to bring it back – not to win hearts and minds but instead to inform the hopefully participating adults of tomorrow. There are gathering storm clouds on the judicial horizon…
Most concerning of all, considering the county’s demographics, was the relative dearth of young adults in the jury pool. When I got home I spoke briefly to the 30-something son of one of my neighbors. He’s a smart, well-informed guy who would be an asset to any jury. When I asked him if he’d ever served on a jury, he laughed and said he responded to his one-and-only jury summons a decade earlier by admitting that he didn’t believe in the government. “They never called me back,” he said.
ROSIN THE BOW (also known as Acres of Clams)
It’s 2 o clock in the morning
I haven’t gone to bed yet
Gotta sit here at the laptop, cause
Somebody’s wrong on the Net.
…Somebody’s wrong on the net
…Somebody’s wrong on the Net
…I know I’m right, so I’ll stay up all night
…Somebody’s wrong on the Net.
Some of the listfolk are normal
Some are old hippies and freaks
Some spend their time reading gobbledegook
Upchucked by gobbledegeeks.
…Somebody’s wrong on the Net
…Somebody’s wrong on the Net
…Peevish and mean, they scream at the screen
…Somebody’s wrong on the Net.
Once I was wrong about something
How could I ever forget
All of those guys who informed me
That I was wrong on the Net.
One fellow said I was stupid
One fellow told me I sucked
I sent a witty rejoinder
Telling them both to get a life.
…Somebody’s wrong on the Net
…Somebody’s wrong on the Net
…Stuck in their bubble, they love making trouble
…Somebody’s wrong on the Net.
— Holly Tannen
Let’s look at just how “rough” a game Brock Purdy had:
2 TD / 0 INT (still no INTs this year)
111.3 passer rating
AND - he was blitzed on a ridiculous 74% of his drop backs, the highest blitz rate a QB has faced in 10 years. And he had 236 passing yards against the blitz, most since Aaron Rodgers in 2021.
Yes, he started out rough, going 5 for 14 to start. But that means he went 20/23 to finish. He adjusted to the Giants defense, like a great QB should. He took what the D was giving them with those little screen passes and then let his playmakers do the rest. And he made several great throws into tight windows including two great TDs. He didn’t try to do too much and remained calm and poised. He didn’t do anything to hurt the team. Took two small sacks rather than risk a big turnover and threw the ball away a few times when nothing was there for them.
This game showed me the incredible maturation of Brock Purdy. He gets it! And he hasn’t even played the equivalent of a full season yet. And is still only a few months out of rehab for his surgically repaired elbow.
I think he’s going to be a special player for a long time in this league!
LEVI'S STADIUM IS ENTERING ITS 10TH YEAR. Is the 49ers' stadium any good?
by Peter Hartlaub
On my worst day as a 49ers fan, I blamed Levi’s Stadium.
It was Nov. 20, 2016, and the team was about to endure its ninth loss in a row under the stewardship of way-over-his-head coach Chip Kelly. During a rainy halftime, the team honored beloved former owner Eddie DeBartolo. The stands were maybe one-eighth full to thank a man who brought the team — and arguably all of San Francisco — back to greatness with five Super Bowl wins.
As I shivered under a poncho beside my 81-year-old father in an abandoned-looking stadium and tried to make two people sound like 20, I could only think, “This place is cursed.”
But time, and a winning team, has done a lot to sand down the sharp edges of the San Francisco 49ers stadium located 54.4 miles from the city that bears its name. Older controversies (the turf disaster that led to unsure footing and replacement of the grass, the lack of shade on the sunny eastern side of the stands, the embarrassingly small crowds) have mostly been forgotten. Past problems including traffic and glacial concession lines have slowly improved.
And while Levi’s doesn’t have the personality of previous homes Candlestick Park and Kezar Stadium, it also has fewer headaches. After attending 40-plus games and a few concerts, I haven’t grown to love it. But I appreciate the bland convenience.
As the 49ers start their 10th regular season at Levi’s Stadium on Thursday with two road wins in the books, it seems a fair time to ask: Is it a good stadium?
From the moment plans to build a new stadium in San Francisco broke down, and Santa Clara became the new home, Levi’s Stadium faced an uphill battle for acceptance. San Franciscans were used to sporting experiences that mirrored the region’s eccentricity, whether in a baseball park where home runs are fielded by kayakers, or a college team that replaced its so-not-politically correct Indian chief mascot with this weird-looking tree.
Surrounded by a golf course, tract housing, an amusement park and so many offices, Levi’s Stadium was a suburban structure with all the charm of a convention center information booth: The video screens were big, the WiFi worked surprisingly well and the walkways were cavernous compared with the overcrowded lanes at Candlestick (where every trip to the bathroom meant negotiating several blockades of fans waiting 30 minutes for a beer). Levi’s seemed built for comfortably passing time, not building a bold new legacy.
Instead of easing fans into the new home, ownership approached the move like an exorcism. Never mind if it was good or bad; just about everything old was gone.
I knew there were problems during the first 2014 home games when Frisbee dog halftime performances, the one thing universally beloved, didn’t immediately return. In the beginning, very few retired Super Bowl-era players showed up, and longtime PA announcer Bob Sarlatte was jettisoned.
The one old thing they kept was the eyesore I’ve campaigned against the longest: Sourdough Sam, a dead-eyed and displeasing mining-themed mascot that is neither adorable and beloved like the Giants’ Lou Seal nor random and fun like Philadelphia’s Gritty.
That rain-soaked 2016 game with my dad, which ended in a 30-17 loss to the New England Patriots, wasn’t even the lowest point. The team lost the next four games as well, before finishing that season 2-14, its worst record since Jerry Brown was governor (the first time around).
Then a good exorcism occurred.
The team fired Kelly and hired coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch in 2017, adding a stable leader and a media-savvy face to the franchise. Greg Papa joined the team as the radio play-by-play announcer in 2019, giving the team its most charismatic broadcaster since 1980s color commentator Wayne Walker.
And slowly, the stadium experience improved as well.
Some of it was just a matter of time and experience. The combination of VTA light rail, Caltrain, ample parking lots and fine-tuned traffic controls have made getting to the games much easier. I’ve left my home in Alameda at 11:40 a.m. and reached my seats before a 1 p.m. kickoff — a feat that would be impossible at Candlestick Park without an airplane and a parachute.
The team has tripled down on honoring beloved retired players, inviting legends to blow a foghorn before games. (Never mind that the nearest boats in distress are 45 miles away.) Greatest-of-all-time Jerry Rice is a regular on the sideline, charmingly hanging out with fans lucky enough to have front row seats in the western end zone. Each year, the 49ers player introductions seem to get 10% more bombastic — in the best way — while new traditions including the Niner Noise drumline emerge.
And the fans, who from 2014 to 2016 would descend into the stadium’s bars during halftime to never return, seem more knowledgeable and engaged. It took seven or eight years, but our section is more full, more friendly and more social. The crowds are loud again; maybe 90% of peak Candlestick decibel levels. When the game isn’t good, my son and I spend the ride home talking about the characters sitting around us.
The fundamental flaw of Levi’s Stadium still exists: it’s unremarkable and conservative, in a region that celebrates its big swings. The facility is not a joyful ice cream sundae with a square of Ghirardelli chocolate on top like where the San Francisco Giants play. It’s the Chipotle burrito bowl of sports stadiums. (With no guac.)
But if there’s a sport where blah functionality works in the Bay Area, professional football is probably the one. When 60,000 people are entering and leaving a single venue, functionality is king. And when the team is thriving, like it is now, the stadium can rise to the occasion.
Will Levi’s ever overcome its stigma of being located two counties away from the city featured on its helmets? Probably not. But is it exceeding my expectations slowly, gradually making improvements and providing a satisfying experience when the team is thriving? We’ll answer all of the above with a tepid, “Well, sure, I suppose it is.”
Ten years along, Levi’s isn’t a bad stadium.
Even if I do miss the Frisbee dogs.
VIA BILL KIMBERLIN:
EVERYBODY FEARED FOR MUHAMMAD ALI. Everyone. So I figured I'd go out there and knock him out in one or two rounds so he wouldn't get hurt.
My corner instructed me to knock him out in the first round, second round, third round, and I didn't conserve any energy.
Then I looked and it was the fourth round, and I had hit this guy with every shot I had to knock him out, he had not lost any ground. As a matter of fact, he was a little stronger.
On the other hand I had not punished him and knocked him out like I thought... I had got a little weaker.
I was devastated after the fight. I had been a professional all these years, I was undefeated in 37 boxing matches and nobody had ever beaten me I thought I knew how to navigate through anything, but a defeat.
I was devastated, I had nightmares. I kept waking up in the middle of the night thinking I'm going to beat the count and I lost the boxing match in my nightmares.
Things didn't change. It was a hard time to live through. It was very hard for me to move on.
— George Foreman
NAOMI KLEIN ON RUSSELL BRAND, who has been accused of sexually assaulting multiple women, including a 16-year-old girl: “Of course, Russell Brand’s followers deny the allegations. He has groomed an audience to deny/disbelieve everything they see and hear, which is very different from healthy skepticism. This knee-jerk denialism is precisely why people with plenty of skeletons in the closet love conspiracy culture: they have a built-in defense against accountability. It’s all a conspiracy, always. I have met Brand, been on his show (years ago). It took a hell of a lot of courage for these women to come forward. They have all my solidarity.” (via Jeffrey St. Clair, CounterPunch)
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Does anyone really care what Russell Brand did 10 years ago, with the unnamed women?
Or was it just an excuse for the Blob to cancel, excoriate, and prosecute him?
It pisses me off beyond reason that we are supposed to be shocked!, shocked! and outraged that Russell Brand may have forced himself on a few women, over a decade ago, while the same Blob insists that men can force themselves into women’s spaces, and any woman who expresses outrage is herself cancelled, excoriated, and attacked.
Witness William (called Lia) Thomas, who forced himself into the women’s locker room, exposed himself to multiple unwilling women, and then stole their swimming championship.
Unlike with Russell Brand, we are ordered to applaud him and call him “courageous.”
And we are forced to call him a “her,” or at least, the entire media complies with that decree.
The MeToo narrative is trumped by the Trans agenda.
by James Kunstler
“Our government has not failed us. To fail implies there was at least a good faith effort to do the right thing.” — Eric Matheny
The new science of blobology informs us that political blobs blow up like dying stars gorging on runaway fusion.The blob expands beyond the viable limits of its internal contradictions and implodes in a spectacular vacuum of absurdity. The Washington DC blob’s dire pulsations lately signal that it’s about to blow its toxic endoplasm all over our nation’s capital, drowning many denizens in deadly slime.
Did you catch Attorney General Merrick Garland’s performance Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee? The absurdity ran pretty rank in the chamber as the AG artfully evaded explaining how it is he doesn’t know a darn thing about the consequential cases in process at his DOJ — and if he did happen to know, he wouldn’t be able to say because… reasons.
For instance, the strange inability of one US attorney David Weiss to generate charges after five whole years of investigation in the sundry matters involving the president’s son, Hunter Biden, until the statute of limitations on tax evasion dribbled away. And then, after concocting a booby trapped plea deal on a Mickey Mouse gun rap that blew up under a judge’s scrutiny, the selfsame Mr. Weiss is appointed Special Counsel (i.e. prosecutor) over those very cases. Say, whu…? Not to mention that it’s against the regulations to appoint anyone special counsel from within the DOJ.
Well, you see, Mr. Weiss is a splendid fellow, Mr. Garland explained. When asked if he could give a working definition of professional incompetence, the AG affected to be stumped. In the course of all this play-acting, Mr. Garland maybe perjured himself several times, and he seemed painfully aware of his own possible looming legal difficulties.
One suspects through all this mummery and confabulation that Merrick Garland is not actually in charge of the US DOJ. Then who is? My guess would be the ultra low profile Deputy AG Lisa Monaco, a mitochondria of the DC blob, one of its energy cells. Ms. Monaco was up to her eyeballs in the Obama regime’s prep work for the Russia Collusion Hoax of 2016, and since her appointment as DAG in April, 2021, is a behind the scenes architect of the new American police state. The Washington Post pretends that she doesn’t exist. One also wonders when a House committee will become interested in deposing her, especially on the subject of her involvement with J-6 prosecutions.
So far, the blob has gotten away with its many depredations because the DC federal district court is one of its pseudopods, able to reach out, engulf, and dissolve anyone who poses a threat. But a turning point in America’s struggle against blobbery may have been crossed far away from there. Down in Texas, which is lately afflicted with blobitis, the state Attorney General Ken Paxton escaped an impeachment trap laid by Party of Chaos state legislators and blob allies revolving around Karl Rove and the next-gen Bush family, losing its legacy as owners of the Texas GOP.
Mr. Paxton must be royally pissed off by these shenanigans and maybe ready to rumble with blob agent Homeland Security Sec’y Alejandro Mayorkas and his putative boss, “Joe Biden.” As it happens, with Autumn here and temperatures along the border moderating, crossings of illegal aliens are at 10,000 a day. A few days after Mr. Paxton’s acquittal in the Texas Senate, Governor Greg Abbott officially declared “an invasion.” Under the US Constitution, federal failure to defend the border allows the states to repel the invaders with force. It also pretty explicitly spells out an impeachable offense against “Joe Biden” — failure to defend our country. The blob quivers and throbs.
NANCY PELOSI contrasted herself with Kevin McCarthy last weekend by saying she was under pressure to impeach Bush when she became speaker in January 2007, but she resisted because she didn’t think that lying about the reason to go to war in Iraq rose to that level, which is surely a judgment almost as corrupt as the decision to go to war itself.
— Jeff St. Clair
UKRAINE, FRIDAY, 22 SEPTEMBER
The Ukrainian military confirmed it launched a missile attack on the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, Crimea, calling it a "successful hit." Sevastopol is one of the largest cities on the annexed peninsula, and the attack comes as Kyiv steps up strikes against Russian military bases and other installations in the area over the past month.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is to deliver an address to Canada's Parliament as he visits the country for the first time. Zelensky will also meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said Ottawa will strengthen economic ties with Ukraine and "apply more economic pressure on Putin's regime."
Zelensky met with President Joe Biden at the White House Thursday as the US announced a new support package for Ukraine, including $128 million in security assistance and $197 million in arms and equipment.
Poland's president said he is willing to talk to Zelensky as "friends" after Warsaw signaled it would stop sending arms to Kyiv amid a dispute over grain imports.
WAR: A massacre of people who don’t know each other for the profit of those who know each other but don’t massacre each other.”
— Paul Valéry
WHEN WE HAVE BEEN HOME from abroad for a week or two, and time after time, in answer to our friends’ polite inquiries, we have retold our experiences, letting phrase engender phrase, until we have made quite a good story of it all; when the unusual people we encountered have, in retrospect, become fabulous and fantastic, and all the checks and uncertainties of travel had become very serious dangers; when the minor annoyances assume heroic proportions and have become, at the luncheon-table, barely endurable privations; even before that, when in the later stages of our journey we reread in our diaries the somewhat bald chronicle of the preceding months — how very little attention do we pay, among all these false frights and bogies, to the stark horrors of boredom.
It seems to me that not nearly enough has been said about this aspect of travel. No one can have any conception of what boredom really means until he has been to the tropics. The boredom of civilized life is trivial and terminable, a puny thing to be strangled between finger and thumb. The blackest things in European social life — rich women talking about their poverty, poor women talking about their wealth, week-end parties of Cambridge aesthetes or lecturers from the London School of Economics, rival Byzantinists at variance, actresses off the stage, psychologists explaining one’s own books to one, Americans explaining how much they have drunk lately, house-flies at early morning in the South of France, amateur novelists talking about royalties and reviews, amateur journalists, quarrelling lovers, mystical atheists, raconteurs, dogs, people who try to look inscrutable, the very terrors, indeed, which drive one to refuge in the still-remote regions of the earth, are mere pansies and pimpernels to the rank flowers which flame grossly in those dark and steaming sanctuaries.
I am constitutionally a martyr to boredom, but never in Europe have I been so desperately and degradingly bored as I was during the next four days; they were as black and timeless as Damnation; a handful of fine ashes thrown into the eyes, a blanket over the face, a mass of soft clay knee deep. My diary reminds me of my suffering in those very words, but the emotion which prompted them seems remote.
I know a woman who is always having babies; every time she resolves that that one shall be the last. But, every time, she forgets her resolution, and it is only when her labor begins that she cries to midwife and husband, “Stop, stop; I’ve just remembered what it is like. I refuse to have another.” But it is then too late. So the human race goes on. Just in this way, it seems to me, the activity of our anthill is preserved by a merciful process of oblivion. “Never again,” I say on the steps of the house, “never again will I lunch with that woman.” “Never again,” I say in the railway carriage, “will I go and stay with those people.” And yet a week or two later the next invitation finds me eagerly accepting. “Stop,” I cry inwardly, as I take my hostess’s claw-like hand. “Stop, stop,” I cry in my tepid bath; “I have just remembered what it is like. I refuse to have another." But it is too late.
From time to time I meet people who say they are never bored; they are of two kinds; both, for the most part, liars. Some are equally entranced by almost all observable objects, a straggle of blossom on a whitewashed wall, chimneys against the sky, two dogs on a muck heap, an old man with a barrow… Precepts of my house master, a very indolent clergyman, rise before me… “only a dull boy is ever dull” … “the world is so full of a number of things.”…
Others find consolation in their own minds. Whenever they are confronted with a dreary prospect, they tell me, they just slip away from the barren, objective world into the green pastures and ivory palaces of imagination. Perhaps, by a kind of arrested development, some of them really have retained this happy faculty of childhood, but as a rule I find that both these boasts boil down to a simple form of pessimism — the refusal to recognize that any particular human activity can be of greater value than any other one.
— Evelyn Waugh
WHY RUPERT MURDOCH CAME TO NEW YORK
by Alexander Cockburn
Who Is Rupert Murdoch, Anyway?
The new game in town is guessing what Rupert Murdoch will do with the New York Post. The jokes abound. “Smut and Socialism” was one hopelessly optimistic prediction. Wags scribbled headlines such as “Fiend Buys ‘Post’ (from Fiend).” “When did you know that Murdoch had bought the Post,” one denizen of South Street was asked. “At three o’clock on Friday, when I saw Wechsler and Sann in suits talking to each other,” came the reply. Post people groaned that Dolly had not even deigned to give the paper the scoop for its last edition.
But what will a newspaper proprietor with powerful publications in Australia and in Britain do, now that he has bought into the action in New York? What does his career tell us?
* * *
Murdoch’s father, Keith, was a famous Australian newsman, particularly noted for breaking the story, through fierce military censorship, of the ghastly British reverses in Gallipoli in 1915. In his later career, Sir Keith, as he became, built up a commanding position in Australian newspapers, notably the Melbourne Herald. Young Rupert, born in 1931, drank in newspaper lore at his father’s knee, received a classy education at Geelong Grammar, and, indeed, worked on the Melbourne Herald in such areas as the police beat before going off to Oxford.
He returned to a situation slightly less full of promise than he had thought. Although Sir Keith was powerful at the Melbourne Herald, he lacked the shares for full control.
At all events, following the death of his father, Rupert was left with only a small province of what had been, prospectively, a large empire. His father had, along the way, acquired the Adelaide Daily News and it was in Adelaide, with this afternoon paper, that Murdoch really began his newspapering career.
Success in Adelaide brought him to Sydney and a serious engagement in the savage world of Australian journalism, in particular, Australian newspaper wars. A famous adornment of Australia’s press world had been the Norton family, father and son. Old John Norton was a crazed, villainous megalomaniac, given to such statements in his magazine Truth that Winston Churchill was “a witless wild ass, a bulgy-eyed, frothy-mouthed, loose-tongued, leather-lunged, British Yankee half-breed… a demented decadent, the blatant brain-mad bounder… this sibilating shyster.” The old boy was noted, among other antics, for urinating publicly in the chamber of the state legislature.
His son Ezra later remembered his father calling him to observe the crowds strolling home from church beneath his balcony. “Look at them,” said old John as he studied his readers, “look at them in all their Sunday finery, the bloody hypocrites. Never forget this, my son. When you carry on my great work in Truth, keeping up its traditions, without fear or favor, you will be in the same position of trust as me, always able to pour a bucket of shit over the lot of them.”
The great newspaper battle in Sydney was between two afternoon papers, the Mirror, owned by Ezra Norton, and the Sun, owned by the Fairfax interests. On Ezra’s death, the Fairfax-cum-Melbourne Herald crowd briefly held the Sun before selling it to Murdoch, thinking that the would-be press tycoon would sink under its weight.
As other opponents later discovered, it is a mistake to underestimate Murdoch in a circulation war. The competition was terrific, and the recipe was one of titillation (notably schoolgirls’ diaries) and muckraking. Murdoch, again in a pattern, got a good editor called Zell Rabin (who worked ceaselessly and died prematurely) and went to it. The war more or less continues to this day. One editor on the Sydney Morning Herald describes the Mirror and the Sun as “perhaps the two worst in the world.” Through four editions each day the two battle it out. The Sun is less raunchy, the Mirror’s girls bulge provocatively. The suggestion of a nipple in the first edition becomes an announcement in the second. In 1974, the rivalry reached an exquisite point when the two papers announced competing comic-strip versions of the Bible. After three days the Sun was well ahead, having reached Samson, whereas the Mirror was still in the Garden of Eden.
Gradually, Murdoch expanded his interests, establishing his access to bank money and buying up profitable strings of suburban newspapers such as the Cumberland group. He acquired the Sidney Daily Telegraph and in 1965 started up a national paper, The Australian in Canberra. Present claims that this is a jewel of seriousness in a crown of tripe are a little overstated. The Australian has seriously declined in quality. But it was a creditable gamble by Murdoch.
* * *
In the mid-’60s, Murdoch met the would-be press tycoon Robert Maxwell, over from Britain on a business spree. Murdoch formed a low estimate of this character and is quoted by one memorialist as saying at the time that he would travel halfway around the world to throw the fellow a concrete lifebelt. Then his chance came. Maxwell was trying to take over the News of the World, the famed receptacle of British prurience. Murdoch immediately joined the other side, namely the defending team of Carr-Jackson interests, who were paralyzed as rabbits in the face of Maxwell’s forceful overtures. Murdoch instantly perceived the correct ploy, which was to attack the share price of Pergamon, Maxwell ‘s company, and the currency in which he was making his bid. Murdoch also turned his investigators loose on Maxwell’s Australian operations. By such techniques, Murdoch routed Maxwell, and, indeed, inflicted a permanent dent on that gentleman’s career. Simultaneously, he turned on the News of the Worldowners who were hopefully waving him back off to Australia again and told them brusquely he was there to stay.
His second big newspapering chance came in the early 1970s in Britain. IPC — the London Daily Mirror’s company — was desperately trying to keep The Sun, a wobbling liberal daily descended from the old socialist Daily Herald, afloat. Resigning themselves to permanent loss, they finally sold it to Murdoch. At that time the Mirror was the leading tabloid in England. Once again, as in Sidney, Murdoch fought a hard and no doubt formative circulation war. Connoisseurs well remember the loving care with which Sun subeditors would discuss the girl picture on page three, debating the effects of chiaroscuro and lighting, whereas the Mirror’s men would guiltily bung in their pinup with shameful laxity. Murdoch’s team, socking out the sex and tightly edited stories and stirring headlines, has now won the day.
* * *
Murdoch, with such successes and a handy slice of London Weekend Television stock under his belt, came to the United States in 1973. He launched The National Star with a disastrous $5 million ad campaign — disastrous since few copies were actually available for the eager readers. He bought the San Antonio Express and Evening News for $17 million, making the latter a byword with such great headlines as the one which pushed aside the national Democratic convention: “THUGS ROB EX-MAYOR, BEAT DOG.” Now, after trying to buy the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and the Washington Star, he has the Post. Simultaneously, he is on the verge of buying the Observer.
* * *
There are a number of things to get straight about Murdoch. He is not, as Time suggests this week, just interested in “making merry and making money.” He is extremely interested in politics, and his views, notably in Australia, have had enormous effect. In 1972, almost all Murdoch’s Australian newspapers keenly supported Gough Whitlam and the Australian Labor Party, out of power for over 25 years. After Whitlam’s victory Murdoch’s general manager, John Menadue, went to work for Whitlam as his private secretary and is now Australian ambassador in Tokyo. Murdoch’s disillusion with Whitlam was fairly rapid. By 1974, his papers were warming up against Whitlam — a feud, say some, fueled by the fact that Whitlam blocked the transfer of funds out of Australia which Murdoch needed for newspaper and mining enterprises.
The campaign Murdoch ran in all his Australian newspapers against Whitlam was unbelievably ferocious. Journalists, particularly on The Australian, were ordered to turn out the assaults and were shouldered aside or ejected by Murdoch’s anti-Whitlam heavy cadres if they refused. Volley after volley of fierce editorials (sometimes such as the brief one in the Sydney Mirror, announcing “To hell with the MPs. All of them, no matter their party”) ranged out across the country. Finally, Whitlam was dismissed by the Governor-General, amid Murdochian applause. Labor unions boycotted The Australian. Crowds invaded the Sydney Mirror and burned copies of the paper in the streets. Even after Whitlam’s fall, Murdoch kept up the attack: personally sending dispatches about Whitlam to his Australian papers about the fallen premier’s bizarre dealings with the Iraqis. Murdoch’s English papers have been similarly pungent about left-wing Labor MPs. His early laborite views seem to be diminishing. He is, in short, far from being a Roy Thomson, merely tracking his papers for profit margins.
It should also be remembered that Murdoch comes from an extremely rough school, probably the roughest journalistic school in the world. Australian journalists often fondly recall famed anecdotes of the press magnates’ fearsome behavior: Sir Frank Packer hiring a boxer to beat up one of his own columnists and so forth. Murdoch was formed in these genteel surroundings and has been fending for himself successfully ever since.
Employees across the world hold him in relatively good esteem. He makes a point of remembering all their names and is at home in his newsrooms. The business side of all his papers is tightly and efficiently run. He does not casually splurge money. He believes in “competitive tension,” having executives vie with each other in a sort of Social-Darwinist free-fire zone of overlapping responsibilities until the fittest triumphs. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it does not: the Star has been through about six editors, including Murdoch himself. This can make his businesses uncomfortable places for senior personnel to work. One recurring pattern is that Murdoch will finally find the right editor for one of his papers and enjoy fine relations with him until some immense bust-up after about three years terminates the relationship. Ruthless purges are not unknown in his organization. He believes, as he says, in English subeditors and Australian journalists. In a crisis, he tends to fall back on the “Australian Mafia.”
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How quickly will Murdoch move in on the Post? No doubt his financial aide George Viles will go down with him, as will James Brady — now in idle gear at the Star. An early entry may be Ray Kerrison, the Star’s racing man. He is not particularly afraid of a circulation war with the Daily News’s possible bulldog edition (carrying close-of-market results, put out at 4 p.m.). He reckons that with the McCormick trust going public next year and the unions demanding separate staffing for the bulldog edition, the News-Tribune group would not like to see its public offering damaged by any losses in New York. Otherwise, he is ready for war.
He’ll ask a lot of his writers, some of whom may be unused to the ministrations of English subeditors. An early onslaught of naked women in the Post is not expected, since — as one recent employee put it — “this is Rupert’s bid for respectability.” Besides which, this particular brew is not what he regards as being called for at the Post, at least not in present circumstances. Someone I spoke to compared him jovially with Jimmy Carter: high purposes, with no reluctance to descend into the mire when circumstances require it. Above all, as Murdoch said to me, he likes to sell more newspapers than the next fellow. Possibly spurred by some sense of competition with his famous father, he now is a major newspaper force in three separate areas of the English-speaking world. He’s a likable fellow, but no one could say that he has got to his present powerful position by consistently overestimating the intelligence of his readers. The final addendum to this thought is that many acquaintances and employees think that, in the right circumstances, he is not necessarily prone to underestimating it either.
In an exclusive interview with me at the end of last week, Australian press baron Rupert Murdoch told all. Lounging in his plush Fifth Avenue apartment, sipping a Scotch and soda, the 45-year-old millionaire tycoon spilled the inside story of his daring gamble in buying the ailing “Post” from New York’s first lady of journalism, Dorothy Schiff. He lashed back at the critics who say he is nothing but a peddler of printed garbage. He confessed his secret plan to change the face of New York. He confided his dreams and his mistakes, his life as an outsider in Britain, his love of the United States. Here is the real Rupert Murdoch.
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Who made the first approach on the Post sale?
I did. I’ve seen Dolly on and off and got to know her over the last three years. She’s been very friendly, but we’d never discussed buying or selling the paper. Then, last September, I went down and had a bite of lunch with her, and we got talking about business and politics, and I sensed she was very tired. She said she was very tired. She knew what was necessary to turn the paper around and get it done right, but she felt she just didn’t have the energy left. She really made the opening, though she didn’t really mean to, I think.
I said, if you want to get rid of it, let me know. I’m here. She said, ‘Oh, you’d be interested, would you? Everyone tells me you were, but you’ve never said it. Now you’ve said it.’ I didn’t push. I deliberately took the risk that someone might come in under me. I thought that while it was making money she obviously wasn’t going to go. That’s what it boiled down to.
So she said, ‘Where do we go from here?’ I asked her what she really wanted to do. Did she want to get out? Did she want a partner? She said if she got out she’d get out totally. She said she’d like to write a column. I’m delighted to have her write a column. It gets her to keep an identity of her own.
It was very difficult indeed to arrive at a figure. I promised… I can’t say, but the guessing is around $30 million, and that’s right, 10 per cent either way. If you buy the Kansas City Star, you pay three times the revenue, because it’s a monopoly and a license to steal money forever. Or you pay 50 times earnings, or 40 times earnings. Then you get to a paper which is not making money, so you can’t take a p/e.… In the end, you say, if we’re very successful, how much can we make. Then you make allowances that it’s in New York and allowances for the fact that you’re bloody keen to get it and a certain amount of sense goes out the window, and you do the deal. You’ve got a gut feeling about it.
What does final ratification of the agreement depend on?
Our auditors have got to be satisfied that the figures they have given us are true. That’s all. I have to get permission of the Bank of England and the Reserve Bank of Australia, which is simple. We’ve got the wink. It’s a back-to-back loan. Perfectly normal. We still take the exchange risk as far as England goes. We deposit 10 million pounds, on which we earn from the Bank of England the local rate of interest, 16 or 17 per cent or whatever, and another bank here lends us $10 million, not $15 million. We bring the money directly from Australia and borrow the rest locally.
So what do you think should be done with the Post?
I’ve got to study what’s there. I don’t want to give the impression that there’s no one any good there. We’ve got to improve the authority and the quality of its writing in the arts, the women’s section, and finance. You’ve already got it in sports. But one must never take one’s eye off sports. Make it better still if one can. There has to be better television coverage. These are the ribs of the paper that need to be fixed first and made a lot better. You can give authority through the arts and through finance.
In features, we should thin out the columns a bit and have two or three pages of varying features all the time about New York… service material. Take what New York magazine has done. It walked into a void there, looking after middle-class New Yorkers, telling them how to live here.
We should not be frightened to react to the news quickly, with a three-parter or five-parter on what happens to be interesting and appropriate at the time. But there really are too many columns in the bloody paper. Eight columns a day. They seem to be there because they’re available, rather than for any quality. It’s a cheap way of filling the paper.
Which columns do you like?
I’m growing irritated by Evans and Novak. It doesn’t represent my political point of view, but I like Buckley. I tend to read him. I get cross about it, but the column is articulate. Evans and Novak tend to be sucking up to the political establishment in Washington, because Kissinger is leaking to them, or someone else. But I shouldn’t knock them too much. They often break a story. Carl Rowan I can read. Sylvia Porter — everyone tells me she’s wonderful, but I’d put her back in finance or the women’s pages or a service area. You should have a page or two of first-class political columns leading articles and cartoons. I read Wechsler’s column.… There’s something gray, something dull about paper. Dolly insists the best piece in there is one she put in instead of Anderson, where she rips them all off.
How do you see the front page?
A harder headline. A couple of stories on the front page. Certainly get all those pointers off the top and have a clean, decent masthead. I don’t know — they never do it in America, but I’d like a seal, just the edition name put there in red. A bit of red gives you better black-and-white contrast, somehow.
But it’s the words, picking the right story to lead with, having the right story to lead with. Take the story about Patty Hearst being released: we had that story in our bureau here at the National Star about 10 hours before the Post broke it in their last edition. There’s something wrong with the newsgathering. The reporters are too busy writing essays about city government or about their favorite hobby horses and not getting the hard stuff — courts, politics. There’s room for features, plenty of room for serious features. Don’t get me wrong.
How do you see the Post in relation to the News?
I can’t make up my mind about the News. Sometimes I think all it’s done is just get boring, and that the editors and people there are just too worried about what their neighbors in Westchester County think about it. The News should be violent and blood and guts. Sure, it can have some great writing in it, too. But it chickens out of too many stories. Other times, you have to say to yourself, it’s great. I don’t like its new layout. These wide columns and big type are just slowing it up. I know it’s the rage in America to have wider and wider columns. I think they’re harder to read, slower to read.
How about areas of readership?
It is obviously a Jewish middle-class paper. There’s probably one and a half million, two million people who read it every night. You’ve got to do a better job for them, stop them grumbling about 25 cents, and make them feel they’re getting their money’s worth.
What cut the readership down was the price rise. Dolly kept raising the price without putting anything extra in the paper. We certainly can’t raise the price again in the foreseeable future. It’s a worry, the newsstands closing. Maybe we’ll have to give them a better margin, so they can stay open longer.
Make them feel they’re getting their money’s worth. The next thing, you’ve got to broaden the appeal, get the Irish and the Italians and whoever else. I think the sport is a problem there. The sport is very good, but it’s rather up-market in the way it’s written. It’s a bit above the head of the average… I don’t want to sound… the colored population, well, the blacks here. If they read anything, they tend to read the Daily News and they do it for the sport. Basically, they are not buying newspapers. You know, we will try and get into that area. The News is right, you’ve got to do it via sports. You’re not going to do it with a pretty essay. You’ve got to be able to quicken the pace.
What about your views of American journalism as a whole?
Worthy and lazy. Often bloody lazy. I don’t want to come in knocking American journalism, but I really think the British subeditors are still the best in the world, and I think on the whole that Australian reporters are the best in the world: it’s energy, aggressiveness, and so on.
Do you think American journalists have lost the techniques of being popular?
Right. They can’t even bloody write… on and on and on and on. Importing English subeditors is dangerous, but I wish to God the Americans would learn the techniques of English subbing. The stories in the Post are not very well written, and they go on too long. There’s no subbing. There’s no one writing good headlines down there. I don’t know who the news editor is, and who are organizing the stories. It seems to me they’re not covering the basics of New York. I don’t know what reporting is going on through the night. There must be tremendous… well, there are crime stories after the last edition of the News has gone to bed, waiting for the first edition of the Post. You never see one.
Gossip? Look at the gossip writer she hires. He may be a great guy, but the first piece he writes is 600 words apologizing for being a gossip writer. I never would have published it. Never. You’ve got great stories. Carey carrying on in “21” last night or wherever. Just doorstep Carey every night.
What are your feelings about your political role as a newspaper proprietor here?
In the big political primaries, we were the only major paper in Texas to support Carter.… I’m a bit of a political buff. I love politics. I would have known enough to predict the results of all recent elections, though I was surprised how well Bella Abzug did. Beyond that, what right have I got to have political influence? I pay my taxes here. I’ve got my green card. Of course, I’m interested, fascinated by it. I’m not the Roy Thomson type of newspaper proprietor, just making money out of newspapers. I get a lot of kicks out of the political side of it.
Who would you support if there was an election in Britain tomorrow?
Put the government out, put the Conservatives in. I made the News of the World come out for Labor in 1970. The editors who prided themselves on being more left than me wanted to come out for Edward Heath in ’74. I stopped that. I didn’t come out for Labor. I said all right, we’ll agree to disagree and sit it out.
In 1972, I ran all the election policies of my papers in Australia and got deeply, far too deeply, involved. Looking back, we did some dreadful things to the other side. We lost a lot of advertising revenue, too. But in 1972 all the journalists felt the same way. In 1975, I changed my mind. It wasn’t out of any deep disillusion with the principles of the Labor Party. I was deeply sad. I thought it was a dreadful thing to be going back to the Conservatives so soon. Labor had been out for 23 years. It was the last chance of having a sane Labor government. I don’t mean a right-wing Labor government. I mean one that would have made a lot of changes and which, I hoped, would even go so far as to take us into a republic at one stage. They chickened on that. They were just bloody weak. Whitlam was a disaster.… It’s true, I did come in and turn our papers around. I think half our staff was with us. On The Australian, there were still people committed to the changes Whitlam had tried. They tried to overlook the failures, and there was a clash. I deny completely that we twisted the news. But we can argue that forever. Nineteen-seventy-five rather got me the reputation of being a reactionary, very conveniently overlooking what we’d done in 1972. In 1972, I wrote the leaders [editorials] every day in the [Sydney] Daily Mirror.
Would you be that involved here?
No. I hope I can control myself.
Well, what with The Sun and the San Antonio paper, the image is of you as a monstrous journalistic villain, keen on ambulance chasing and sticking tarts on the cover. How relevant is all that, so far as the Post is concerned? How do you react to that kind of image of you?
I think people misread it, of course. It suits our critics to say that we publish terrible papers. The Sun in London isn’t bad at all. The people who say it’s a terrible paper — it’s quite clear they only look at the girl on page three. It’s quite clear they don’t read it. Or get its political message, or read its features, or see what it’s about. The Sun is striking a chord. It’s being read by everyone under 40. The Mirror must be cooking their books somewhere when they say they are 50,000 in front of us. I think The Sunis an honest and very professional exercise in popular journalism in England. In England, you’ve got 50 million people you can reach at the end of a train every morning. My logic was that there just had to be room for more than one tabloid. The rest is history. You only had to get 20 per cent of the market. Here it’s quite different.
Well, somewhere in between. In Australia, or America, some average city here, you have to sell to everybody. There’s not room for two of you. You tend to have a bland approach. You can’t really define a section of the market, a section of the public where you are just going to give them the paper they want. You go for the under-45s, and the over-65s will be offended. There are different sexual mores. It’s amazing. You put a pretty girl on the paper. A pretty girl, I don’t mean nude. You do that in the Star and they pull the place down. It’s dreadful… the store owners, it’s terrible. But you can publish an article of the most specific sexuality and not a murmur. It’s the reverse in England. More open and honest about it. Of course, there’s a great art to it. Those girls in The Sun are glamorous birds. They’re not tarts, they are not dirty, suggestive pictures. But here, for instance, Cosmopolitan the other day had a cover with a girl where there was a suggestion of a nipple. They got in a lot of trouble from their advertisers. The advertising department was terrified. The free copies went out with stickers planted right on the nipple.
The San Antonio paper? Well, they ignore what we’ve done with the Express down there, which is not as good as we’d like it to be, but is full of New York Times and Washington Post stuff, and some very good investigative stuff. It’s a bit conservative, and the circulation hasn’t gone up at all. So far as the News is concerned, we wondered about it and wondered about it and thought, what are people doing for news, where were they getting it — certainly not from the Hearst papers. We studied the TV programs. The leading channel by a mile was a station that put on two hours of local news every afternoon and was just following the cops around with mobile cameras… blood and guts. And we turned the News pretty sharply, with lots of crime reporting and the courts. It’s a pretty violent city, San Antonio. The funny thing is that a generation ago some previous owner of the paper had been very anti-Mexican, and we had to live this down, and we said the Mexicans will love this and they’ll buy it. We didn’t put more than a few hundred on the West side. It was the gringos, deeply shocked by this, who turned out to buy it. All the increase went on on the affluent North side. So there you are.
Why did you come here?
Three things worried me about Fleet Street, why we had a go here. The first thing was the frustration, the daily bloody arguments with chapels, broken agreements, endless fights. I remember seeing Roy Thomson and he said, ‘Why aren’t you in Australia?’ I said, why aren’t you in Canada, and he said, ‘I won’t let the bastards beat me.’ I said to myself, I don’t want to be a bitter old man of 80, saying I don’t want the bastards to beat me, when they would have beaten me 40 years before. There was something awfully tragic about his attitude to it.
And the other thing was, I just wasn’t prepared to join the system. You know, if I’d stayed in England much longer… maybe I just have an inferiority complex about being an Australian. My wife accuses me of this sometimes. But you’ve got some money, and you tend to send your kids to the school you can most afford; you join the old-school-tie system and you’re going to be dragged into the so-called social establishment somehow. I never was. Just as we were being invited round to places, we’d catch Lord Lambton in bed or something, and then we’d be barred from everything. In England, you’re a big fish; people are always looking at you because the press loves to make a lot of you, to attack you. It’s very difficult not at some point to be sucked into the establishment. The last thing I wanted was to be a bloody press lord. I think, when people start taking knighthoods and peerages, it really is telling the world you’ve sold out. I’ve never been offered one; well, I’ve been offered a knighthood a few times, but no, I wouldn’t take one.
America is a much freer society, but the business framework of the American press is such that it’s very hard. There must be a way through it. I haven’t found it yet, but the New York Post is a great start. We’ll try. The Star turned out to be an impossible dream. We had to let it devolve into a women’s weekly newspaper, because you can only get to the public in a supermarket, and 90 per cent of the buyers there are women. It was an impossible dream as a weekly popular newspaper. I would say it’s over 1.5 million. It’s good. It makes about $20,000 a week. I thought, flushed with success in England, I suppose, that we could rush in here and we would have something making a lot of money, which would be nice and impressive to the bankers when we borrowed the money to buy a big paper. But it’s taken a lot of money and a lot of effort, though we learned a lot about the way the system works and the barriers to starting on the national level.
Still, the charge against you is that you go for the gut readership, the down-market readership, and then you sock it very hard. And there’s little evidence — apart from The Australian — that you’re interested in much else. Why, ultimately, are you in newspapers at all?
There’s two answers — two explanations. One is that we started with a very small paper — 20 years ago in Adelaide — and we’ve never had much money. We’ve always had to borrow and expand and we’ve always had to buy what’s available. So we always got the sick papers and had to turn them around. And so with our biggest papers, it was always a battle for survival. So we had to go for circulation — not necessarily a bad thing.
The second explanation is that I am — if you can psychoanalyze yourself — a very competitive fellow, and I like selling more papers than the next guy. Have I cut corners, against my own principles? I would argue not. Not that I think every single story we have ever run is perfect. I don’t think there is anything to be ashamed of in selling as many papers as you can. Sometimes, in The Sun, the packaging has been blatantly entertaining. No harm in that. I don’t think we’ve corrupted the morals of the British people. Why am I in papers? I just love it. The only other thing I like is politics, and I’ve never let myself get into that. I think you prostitute your newspapers once you start joining political parties. People have done the two. But, to me, that would be really terrible.
(Originally published in the Village Voice, in 1976. Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined!, A Colossal Wreck and An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents are available from CounterPunch.)