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Mendocino County Today: Thursday 4/11/24

Sunny | Navarro Mouth | Val Down | Chamise Update | Shooter Nabbed | Head Spun | Caspar Concert | Visit Budget | Rail Future | New Growth | Ed Notes | Creek Reflection | More Upbeat | Serra Appreciation | Calypso Orchids | Road's End | Dolly Board | Beer Festival | Yesterday's Catch | Decoy Tank | Eclipse Conjecture | Morally Unacceptable | Hippie Girl | Murder Plan | Unstoppable Emma | What's Missing | Militarism Unhinged | Enemy Us | White Rage | Summertime 1943 | Wife Letter | Life's Meaning

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ONE MORE DAY of warm and dry conditions today before the cool down for Friday and into the weekend in association with the approaching amplified upper level trough with the prominent closed low at its base. A slow warming trend will ensue toward mid-week next week. (NWS)

STEPHEN DUNLAP (Fort Bragg): 43F under clear skies this Thursday morning on the coast. Another lovely day today then rain returns Friday afternoon. Rain for the weekend should end Sunday morning. This system not as strong as last weekend.

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Navarro River Mouth (Jeff Goll)

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VAL MUCHOWSKI, white courtesy telephone, please. We are hearing that you are hospitalized with a broken hip sustained when you fell recently. Let us all know how you are doing.

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Hi All,

My Preliminary Hearing on April 15 is going to be rescheduled to a date not yet known. Unfortunately, the special prosecutor hired by the DA resulted in Judge Victoria Shanahan needing to recuse herself. A new judge has not yet been assigned. I appreciate those of you who may have arranged your time to allow you to attend. Thank you for your continued support. I will let you know when there is an update.

Thanks, Chamise Cubbison

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On January 13, 2024 at around 9:20 PM, Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatched to a shooting at a residence in the area of the 31000 block of Highway 20 in Fort Bragg.

Michael Jones

Upon arrival, Deputies contacted a 62-year-old male and learned he was involved in a dispute over stolen property with Michael Anthony Jones, 33, of Fort Bragg.

During this interaction, Jones produced a pistol, pointed it toward the 62-year-old male and fired a single shot. The bullet missed the 62-year-old male and Jones left in a vehicle. Deputies set out to locate Jones at multiple locations and could not find him.

The next morning, on January 14, 2024 at around 7:25 AM, Deputies were dispatched to a residence in the area of the 29000 block of Highway 20 (Fort Bragg), regarding a reported shooting.

Deputies arrived and contacted the same 62-year-old male, who had suffered a gunshot wound to his leg. Deputies were advised that Jones was the shooter and he had fled into the wooded area south of the property.

The 62-year-old male was transported to a local hospital for treatment of his non-life-threatening injuries.

A search warrant for the location of the shooting was obtained and members of the Mendo-Lake County Regional SWAT Team arrived to serve the warrant.

During the service of the warrant, evidence was obtained, and Jones was not located. SWAT then conducted a parole/probation search at a different residence that Jones was known to frequent on Turner Road (Fort Bragg), and he was not located.

Deputies issued an order of arrest for Jones for the crimes of Attempt Murder, Felon in Possession of a Firearm, and Parole Violation.

Jones was described as a white male adult, 33-years of age, 5 feet 11 inches tall, weighing 175 pounds, with brown hair and hazel eyes. Jones has a visible tattoo on the right side of his neck.

Anyone with information on Jones' current whereabouts are urged to contact the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Dispatch Center at 707-463-4086.

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Since January 14, 2024, Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies have made continued efforts to locate and arrest Michael Jones, 33, of Fort Bragg, at multiple locations in the greater Fort Bragg area, City of Fort Bragg, and the Willits area.

On the afternoon of February 22, 2024, Jones was observed operating a vehicle on a property in the 29000 block of Highway 20 near Fort Bragg. When Deputies arrived and attempted to contact Jones, he immediately fled on foot into the woods and was not located at that time. A search of the vehicle that Jones was driving was conducted and a loaded sawed-off shotgun was located. A report was taken for Felon in Possession of a Firearm, Felon in Possession of Ammunition, (Possession of a Short-Barreled Shotgun, and Resisting Arrest and was forwarded to the District Attorney's Office for prosecution.

During the evening of April 3, 2024, Deputies attempted to stop a pickup associated with Jones in the 800 block of Coast Street in Willits. The driver of the vehicle, identified as Rachael Hunt (age 38 from Fort Bragg), was aware that Jones was wanted and she assisted Jones by driving the pickup into an area where he could make an easier escape on foot to elude capture. 

Rachel Hunt

Deputies gave chase to Jones but were unable to arrest him that night. Hunt was arrested for a local felony warrant, and additional charges of Aiding a Wanted Person, Possession of a Controlled Substance, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Hunt was transported and booked into county jail, where her bail was set at $30,000.

On the afternoon of April 9, 2024, Deputies developed information that Jones was staying at a residence in the area of the 22000 block of Eastside Road in Willits. A search warrant was approved to enter the residence at the location to apprehend Jones. With the assistance of the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force, Deputies and allied Law Enforcement Officers went to the property to serve the warrant and arrest Jones. As law enforcement personnel were entering the property, Jones fled on foot from a travel trailer. Sheriff's Office canine "Jet" was deployed and after a short distance, Jones surrendered and was taken into custody without further incident. During the search incident to arrest, Jones was found to be in possession of suspected methamphetamine. Jones was transported and booked into county jail for Parole Hold Warrant, (Possession of a Controlled Substance, and 148 PC Resisting Arrest. Due to Jones's parole status, he is being held without bail.

All charges, including the original attempted murder from January of 2024, have been forwarded to the Mendocino County District Attorney for prosecution.

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SUPERVISOR TED WILLIAMS: The Mendocino Historical Review Board rejected cost-cutting ideas, supported action minutes and waiving site visits for signs, but will consider a change of meeting time at its next meeting. Several speakers highlighted the town’s significant revenue generation for the county with little to show in public dollars returning as services and infrastructure.

JOHN REDDING: What an accomplishment! They will "consider" a change in the time of future meetings. Oh, and action minutes which every successful organization does. It makes my head spin.

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Is anyone paying attention?

Similar to that of the county, Visit Mendocino County’s draft budget for fiscal year 2024/25 shows a projected $302,027.57 shortfall. With a total budget of $1,455,000, one would think that balancing their budget would be a matter of figuring out what’s working and what’s not. With 45% (!) of their entire budget going to Personnel costs, one might suspect that some cost-cutting measures could be gained in that particular area. How about the $96,100 (!) for event and festival guides? I’ve been around the printing world and unless you’re printing something really, really special, I’d say it would be hard to generate those kinds of costs for a bi-annual printing of a few thousand booklets and brochures. Visitor signage is important, but $80,000 for it?

Come on Visit Mendocino County. You can do better than this. Try cutting your payroll and putting stakeholders’ money into where it’s meant to be spent: marketing the county.




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Members of the Board-

I wanted to call your attention to two very critical matter facing the future of Mendocino County’s transportation network.

The first concerns the North Coast Rail Authority (NCRA), a group that even Senator McGuire labeled as “the center of controversy on the North Coast [for the past 30 years],” and that has wasted more than $141M of taxpayer money. The NCRA has now been rebranded as the Great Redwood Trail Agency (GRTA), but this name change hasn’t ended any of the controversy. Because while the GRTA plans to leave the NWP’s tracks in place south of the Mendocino County border—so the people and businesses south of that border can benefit from both rails and trails, the GRTA has decided to deny those benefits to the people and businesses of Mendocino County. So, even though there is room for both rails and trails in Mendocino County too, the GRTA has chosen to forevermore cut Mendocino County off from our country’s national railroad network. Even more bizarrely, not only do some of Mendocino County’s political leadership seem okay with that, some are even helping the GRTA accomplish their goal. Isn’t it time for Mendocino County to stop being a doormat, to stand up and demand the same benefits for its people and businesses that the people and businesses of Sonoma and Marin will enjoy?

Second, in order to more easily achieve its plan to cut Mendocino County off from our national railroad network, the GRTA has announced that it intends to force the abandonment of Mendocino Railway’s California Western Railroad / Skunk Train. If they succeed, they will have killed a railroad that has served, and bound together, the communities of Willits and Fort Bragg for 139 years; a railroad that even today has customers interested in shipping 400-500 railcars of freight between our two cities, shipments that would remove nearly 2,000 trucks from Highway 20 each year. And this is just one example of the railroad freight opportunities that the NCRA (and now the GRTA) has negligently – or intentionally – prevented for more than two decades now. The NCRA and GRTA have insisted that freight rail won’t work in Mendocino County not because there isn’t demand for it, but solely because they have been too incompetent to carry it out and too jealous of their fiefdom to allow anyone else to do so.

Freight trains move millions of tons of goods and materials across our national railroad network every day, reducing road congestion, improving road safety, and avoiding the greenhouse gas and other pollution produced by trucks. Trains can move one ton of freight nearly 500 miles on just 1 gallon of fuel; not even a Prius achieves that efficiency. Our State Legislature and Governor have mandated that California must by 2030 reduce its GHG emissions to 1990 levels. How is Mendocino County going to do that if our leaders have allowed the GRTA to rip out our county’s only remaining connection to our national railroad network?

And why now? Why cut Mendocino County off from our national railroad network at the very same time that the Biden administration has just launched a campaign to reconnect communities that have lost transportation opportunities, creating the Reconnecting Communities Institute, the Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Program, and awarding $3.3 billion to help reconnect communities that were divided by past transportation decisions? The GRTA’s efforts to cut Mendocino County off from our national railroad network seem to be doing exactly the opposite of what our federal government is seeking to accomplish. The GRTA’s efforts seem especially inexplicable when Mendocino Railway has repeatedly offered to move the bureaucrats out of the way and just fix the NWP’s line in Mendocino County, being just as repeatedly blocked by first the NCRA, and now the GRTA, as they simply don’t want to see the railroad restored.

By building its trail on top of the existing tracks, the GRTA pays lip service to the idea that they are “preserving” rail opportunities. This is a red herring, since out of the thousands of “preserved” lines across the United States, only a handful have ever been reopened. Nor is it likely that the NWP will be reopened after the GRTA has spent up to $1,000,000 per mile to bury them underneath a trail. The GRTA’s slick political maneuver is to hide behind the fictional notion of rail preservation, so the GRTA doesn’t have to return the underlying land to its original landowners, while at the same time ensuring that the land will never be used for railroad purposes again. It’s a lie intended to fool the gullible. And the leaders of Mendocino County should be ashamed if they fall for it.

A trail where 55 or fewer daily users going through Mendocino County costs the county its rail future and its #1 tourist attraction.  

Two members of this board are on the GRTA’s board. I can understand why Caryl Hart and Senator Mike McGuire don’t care about the people and businesses of Mendocino County as they live in wealthy Sonoma County. But why is this board, and those of its members on the GRTA’s board, helping them hurt the people and businesses of Mendocino County? If you won’t stand up for your constituents, who will? Why abandon your own constituents in favor of those of Marin and Sonoma County?

Not only are railroads far safer and more efficient than trucks, they are also far more environmentally friendly than trucks. And our company is one of the most environmentally friendly railroads in our nation, winning numerous environmental awards. Our sister company, Sierra Northern Railway, is even now building zero-emission hydrogen locomotives. We want to continue investing in Mendocino County, improve both its industry and environment, something this board, and especially some of its members, seem uninterested in.

I encourage the board to act, to announce its opposition to the GRTA’s plans, to oppose the GRTA’s efforts to force the abandonment of the CWR line so that it can more easily cut Mendocino County off from our national railroad network, and to replace those representatives who sit on the GRTA’s board and willingly turn their backs on the people and businesses of Mendocino County for the benefit of millionaires living in Marin and Sonoma County. It’s still not too late to prevent this catastrophe for our people and businesses.



Robert Jason Pinoli
President & CEO – Mendocino Railway

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New growth on fir sapling (mk)

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SURPRISED to read this one this morning: “I've been at NPR for 25 Years. Here’s How We Lost America’s Trust” by Uri Berliner. 

AMERICA'S “TRUST”? That's a big claim, although NPR can be said to be the audio arm of the New York Times who claims it's trusted as all heck, but it's been a long time since Americans, en masse, could be said to “trust” any national media.

NPR is piped into rural Mendocino County via semi-public radio, KZYX, whose listenership is confined to the sliver of the local population who believe they're not only getting the straight national news skinny but that straight skinny is not influenced by the assumptions of the conservative wing of the Democratic Party — Biden, Obama, Billary, etc. 

KZYX'S MENDO news is pegged to the assumption that local government is led by capable people, which it clearly isn't.

I DARESAY most Americans, as our great unraveling gains momentum, choose their info sources based on which of those media confirm their perceptions of reality, a reality manufactured specially for them by those same media from which they think they're getting politically unbiased information.

NPR assumes Biden is perfectly capable, and Trump is demented. And depraved. Fox News assumes Biden is so obviously ga-ga that it's astounding that Big Lib continues to trot him out as plausible, as Fox simultaneously makes the delusional claim that America was paradisiacal under Trump and will be again if Trump is re-elected. 

FOX is also four-square behind the maniacal Israeli government under Netanyahu, claiming that Hamas's monstrous attack on Israel six months ago somehow justifies the random murders of 33,000 Gazans since then.

AND FOX is watched by more Americans, by far, than the Big Lib media like MSNBC and CNN and certainly viewed by more Americanos than listen to NPR.

SO, MR. DIOGENES, where do you look for the straight scoop? Lots of places, but mostly from certain reporters and commentators I trust. Names! The political writers for LRB, for one, and it's too bad that LRB seems too densely academic by people who give up on it after one read, but it's political reporting is the most thorough, the most “objective” you will find and, sad to say, unmatched by any Yankee publication I know. I follow Matt Taibbi and Walter Kirn. Glen Greenwald is good, imo. My old friend Jeff St. Clair on CounterPunch every week is a must read. I think Amy Goodman is reliable on current events. I don't know of any conservative writers who aren't ideologically poisoned. And are lousy writers, too. 

MOSTLY, though, I stick with writers I find most compatible with my grab bag opinions, which boil down to lately — the looming election is likely to kick off civil war for which Trump, with his constant talking up of violence, is preparing his deluded followers.

DEEP DOWN, though, I believe most of us believe more what we need to believe than what might be most helpful to us politically as we stumble towards the November abyss. 

WHATEVER HAPPENED to Doug Thron, who once ran for the Northcoast's 1st Assembly District seat as a Green? Smart and articulate, Thron was a candidate when there still seemed to be a little political room apart from the suffocating Democrat domination of the Northcoast. Thron was, and I hope still is, an exceptional photographer and long-time resident of Humboldt's and Trinity's wilder regions. He was well known for traveling around the country with his marvelous photos of imperiled Headwaters Forest, a road show which greatly contributed to Headwaters eventual preservation by inspiring national support for sparing it.

SERIOUSLY, have any of you ever met an intelligent member of Mensa, the self-certified organization of allegedly super smart people? Mensa, in living fact, is a for-profit business that preys on people who yearn to be declared officially smart. 

MENSA charges $30 for two tests “featuring questions involving logic and deductive reasoning.” People who pay up pass the test, thus joining “the top 2 percent of the High IQ part of our population.” 

PROOF that Mensa tests nothing more than human vanity is its claim that the Redwood Empire chapter contains 200 persons. Where the heck are all these geniuses? There are none in government, none practicing law, none sitting as judges, none in public education. 

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Doyle Creek Reflection at Caspar Beach (Jeff Goll)

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It sure would be wonderful if you could end your print run a bit more upbeat, unlike the current issue.

Then again, nothing seems to change these daze. Except the price of groceries.

Get well soon!

Richey Wasserman

Point Arena

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A FRONT ROW SEAT ON THE PARADE OF LIFE - That's how a newspaper friend once described the best thing about being a journalist. After a 50-year-plus run, I couldn't agree more. I've witnessed many fascinating, intelligent, and colorful characters from my vantage point. Famed criminal defense lawyer Tony Serra is among my personal 10 best. I watched Serra in action during the celebrated Bear Lincoln murder trial in Ukiah and later the Judi Bari federal civil rights case in Oakland federal court. I have seen him here and there in between. He is always accessible and has the perfect one-line comment during any interview. When editors insisted I interview him about his regular use of marijuana even while trying a case, Serra, a teetotaler, grinned. "Maybe they should put down the bottle and take a hit," he said.

— Mike Geniella

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Calypso Orchids (mk)

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To the Mighty AVA et al,

I knew this day would come, oh dread. With no computer or such skills, I feel as if I’m living at the back of a long, dark cave. Which is close, me being the last one living at the end of Hearst-Willits Road.

I really liked Off the Record and County Notes. The County will probably go wild, or wilder! Here’s hoping the Laytvonille Observer might pick up some of the slack. The Willits Weekly doesn't seem to have the gumption to ride herd on those in cahoots of the BOS chambers. I gave up on the Press Democrat and Daily Journal years ago. The weekly arrival of the AVA has been truly the highlight of the week here in Hearst.

All the best to One and All!

Casey Pryor


PS. My letter to the CPUC, as anticipated, fell mostly on deaf ears although the robo calls are down to four or five a day instead of 12 to 15. None on Sundays. So that’s some relief.

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DARK MONEY, INFLUENCE, AND AMERICAN POWER: A Closer Look at the Dolly Parton Billboards in Mendocino County

by Monica Huettl

Driving Highway 101 through Redwood Valley and Ukiah, it is impossible to miss the Dolly Parton billboards. A huge picture of Dolly Parton, with the sentence, “Find the Good in Everybody” and below that, outlined in red, the word “Kindness,” brought to you by the website, The Foundation for a Better Life.…

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OUR BEER FESTIVAL ROCKS [Saturday, May 4, 2024]

Music. It’s like beer for your ears. Makes you feel all warm and happy. That’s why we couldn’t possibly host the Legendary Boonville Beer Festival without a great lineup of local bands.

It all kicks off with the Firkin’ Tappers to welcome you when the gates open. Then, choose from two stages with music all afternoon.

Announcing (drumroll)… The 2024 music schedule!

Hella Mendocino: 1:30–3:00
The Deadlies: 3:30–5:00

Buckridge Racket Club: 2:00–3:30
Blue Luke: 4:00–5:30

Plus, the Festival features a wide array of vendors from gyros to tie-die and from pottery to pizza. The complete list is posted on the Beer Festival page.

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CATCH OF THE DAY, Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Armijo, Dunsing, Fomasi

ANDREW ARMIJO, Ukiah. Paraphernalia, suspended license, probation revocation.

NICKOLAS DUNSING, Ukiah. Failure to appear.


Hanson, Hoaglin, Jones

CRYSTAL HANSON, Point Arena. Probation revocation.

ANTHONY HOAGLIN, Ukiah. Protective order violation, resisting.

MICHAEL JONES, Fort Bragg. Attempted murder, assault with firearm, use of firearm during crime, criminal threats, controlled substance, resisting, parole violation.

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One of the many characters I knew during my ten years in the US Air Force (1967 to 1977) was Guy (short for Guido) Ferlo, a first-rate saxophone and clarinet player, and a semi-professional ballroom dancer, I worked days with Ferlo while at Hanscom Air Force Base outside Boston and played with him in local pickup bands on occasional nights. Guy was a sharp dresser, a bit of a lady’s man even in his 60s, and always wore well-tailored suits, whether at the office or on evening gigs. At the time (the mid-1970s), Ferlo was a civilian US Air Force communications equipment specialist closing in on retirement. In World War II Ferlo had been a tank driver for General Patton on the German front. Ferlo was in a Tank Battalion commanded by then-Lt. Col. Creighton Abrams, an aggressive and cunning tank tactician, later a reasonably famous general during the Vietnam war. Ferlo told me that his job for Patton and Abrams was to “draw fire.” Being a small man at 5’4” and about 135 pounds, Ferlo was just what Patton and Abrams wanted for this particular assignment because he was quick-witted, he fit comfortably in the tight spaces of a tank, and his light weight made the tank that much more maneuverable. Ferlo was assigned to drive a specially stripped down tank — no munitions, minimal fuel, minimum crew, small crewmen, minimal armor, smaller engine… — venturing within range of German tanks that Patton’s spotters had spotted or suspected. Ferlo’s tank was supposed to tempt the German tank units to crank off a long-range shell or two at him, thus revealing their firing positions so that Patton’s long-range howitzers could then target them. According to Ferlo, Patton’s tanks, although smaller and less armored than their German counterparts, had newer electrically-powered turrets, whereas the Nazi tanks had hand-cranked turrets. The Nazis, therefore, took a little longer to make sighting and range adjustments than Patton’s tanks, giving Patton and his tank specialist Creighton Abrams a small but critical advantage in honing in on targets. A tank version of Ali’s rope-a-dope, if you will. Patton could beat the Nazis to the punch, so to speak, if he could get them to fire first. Which is where Ferlo came in. When the situation called for it, Ferlo’s assignment (actually he volunteered for it) was to dart out into an area presumed to be within range of German tanks in his decoy tank, crawl around like he was an easy target but having more maneuverability than the Germans thought he had. Ferlo was indeed an elusive target. Ferlo said the tactic worked in most situations, and, obviously, he was clever enough at it to live to tell about it. The tactic is probably not used much in modern warfare. But there’s a metaphor in play here too, a trap that US politicians, for example, fall into all too often. 

— Mark Scaramella

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by Bernie Sanders

The United Nations has reported that 28 children have died of malnutrition and dehydration in Gaza thus far. The real total is likely much higher. More than one million people in Gaza face “catastrophic food insecurity,” and more than 50,000 children are acutely malnourished. In other words, the people of Gaza are starving. Without a dramatic influx of food, water, and medicine, many thousands more innocent men, women, and children will perish. This is morally unacceptable and must end NOW.

As a result of President Biden’s conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu last week, Israel has committed to a number of steps to improve humanitarian conditions and aid access. These commitments include opening additional border crossings, increasing the number of trucks cleared for entry into Gaza, improving aid distribution within Gaza, and reopening some bakeries and a water pipeline to supply northern Gaza. President Biden made clear that “U.S. policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these steps.

On Sunday, more than 300 trucks were cleared to cross into Gaza, the highest total since the war began, though still short of the 500 trucks per day that humanitarian organizations say are needed. Israel says aid will begin to flow through new crossings in the north later this week.

These are welcome if long-overdue steps. But, given Israel’s horrendous humanitarian record thus far, these commitments must be closely monitored on a daily basis. This is an urgent crisis. Food, water, and medical supplies must immediately reach people in desperate need throughout Gaza. The United States government must demand daily updates on implementation of these steps.

A significant majority of the American people now believe that Israel should not receive additional U.S. military aid while this horrific humanitarian crisis endures. I agree. The United States must focus on saving innocent Palestinian people and advancing steps that can secure a lasting peace, not sending Netanyahu’s extreme, right-wing government more money or weapons. The United States cannot be complicit in the use of starvation as a weapon of war.

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A HIPPIE GIRL selling roadside flowers in Oklahoma, 1973.

The word hippie is derived from the word hip, which conveys being up to date and fashionable. In the 1950s, “hip” was commonly applied to the Beats (people who rejected standard narrative values), such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, who represented and inspired the bohemian artist communities in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City. These Beat writers and thinkers were idolized by a growing number of youths in the 1960s, and by 1965 a counterculture movement began to converge in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district.

The term hippie was soon applied by local journalists to this new subculture, and the word gained national (and soon international) recognition in 1967 thanks in large part to the frequent use of the word by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen. The term can be descriptive or derogatory and was not initially used by the youths to describe themselves.

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Let’s cut to the chase: of course Israel deliberately targeted the WCK relief convoy. Not only do all the material facts point to this conclusion. There also aren’t any grounds to doubt it; the heavy burden of proof falls on Israel to demonstrate that it was not a premeditated strike. On October 8, 2023, Israel announced a total blockade of Gaza: no food, fuel, water, or electricity would be allowed in. The rationale behind this order was laid out by former Israeli National Security Council head Giora Eiland: “Israel should not allow any economic assistance. The people should be told that they have two choices: to stay and to starve, or to leave.” For the next two weeks, Israel blocked the entry of any aid into Gaza. Flagrant mass murder not being a good look, President Biden counseled Prime Minister Netanyahu to lighten up a bit. Israel tweaked its murder plan so as to pass muster with its enablers in Washington. But it did not alter the essence of its game-plan. Human Rights Watch documented in December that Israel was “using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare.” Normally reticent senior international and humanitarian officials have in recent weeks openly charged that “Starvation is used as a weapon of war. Israel is provoking famine." (Josop Borrell, EU foreign policy chief) If—as everyone seems to agree—Israel’s declared objective is to starve Gaza’s civilian population, then: HOW COULD IT NOT PLUG THE HOLES IN ITS MURDER PLAN BY TARGETING INTERNATIONAL RELIEF ORGANIZATIONS? And in fact it’s mission accomplished: international aid operations in Gaza have largely ceased “as a result of recent attacks on humanitarian workers by the IDF.” (“Letter to the White House and National Security Council,” April 4, 2024) But it might be wondered: Wasn’t it foolhardy for Israel to risk international opprobrium? Not at all. Israel has targeted by various metrics an historically unprecedented number of hospitals, medics, journalists, and aid workers; it has killed an unprecedented number of women and children. It is ever testing the limits of the permissible. So far, it’s successfully crossed every downward threshold into barbarism with impunity. It’s impossible to predict in advance which story will be picked up by the fickle international media and which story will just get passing notice. The latest atrocity could just as easily have been subsumed in a paragraph on the inside pages under the title “Aid workers killed in Gaza.” The only error Israel might have—it’s too soon to tell—committed was anticipating that it would get another free pass. Indeed, Israel’s news bureau in the US, the New York Times, is already spinning the story to exonerate Israel: “botched operation ... mistakes and misjudgments ... accidental killing.” (“Back-to-Back Israeli Strikes Show Tragic Gaps in Choosing Targets,” April 4, 2024) It’s also being said that it’s not senior Israeli officials but on the contrary IDF field commanders and soldiers who are out of control, or that Israel’s resort to AI is behind the hecatomb in Gaza. That’s all bullshit. During its periodic “mowing-the-lawn” hi-tech murder sprees in Gaza (Operation Cast Lead, Operation Protective Edge), Israel has always used DISCRIMINATELY INDISCRIMINATE firepower to terrorize Gaza’s civilian population into submission. The nub of the problem is neither disciplinary nor technical. It’s Israel’s murder plan: to make Gaza unlivable and to force its people to decide—starve or leave.

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A great example - no hiking boots - no backpack - no GPS - no sleeping bag - no hiking equipment at all - just GUTS and DETERMINATION!

When 67-year-old Emma Rowena Gatewood told her children she was going out for a walk, they didn't think much of it.

In 1950, Emma read a story in the National Geographic that would play on her mind for the next five years.

It described the famous Appalachian Trail, a 2,168-mile trail stretching from Mount Oglethorpe in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.

The article said that no woman had ever completed the entire hike.

In 1955, she decided the time was right to embark on her impromptu stroll.

Wearing Keds tennis shoes and packing a blanket, raincoat and plastic shower curtain, she told her by-then adult children she was going out for a walk and set off.

Emma would later explain that the trail was nothing like the description offered in National Geographic which had given the impression of leisurely walks, with clean cabins waiting at the end of each stretch.

I thought it would be a nice lark. It wasn't. There were terrible blow downs, burnt-over areas that were never re-marked, gravel and sand washouts, weeds and brush to your neck, and most of the shelters were blown down, burned down or so filthy I chose to sleep out of doors. 

This is no trail. This is a nightmare. For some fool reason they always lead you right up over the biggest rock to the top of the biggest mountain they can find. I've seen every fire station between here and Georgia. 

Why, an Indian would die laughing his head off if he saw those trails. I would never have started this trip if I had known how tough it was, but I couldn't and I wouldn't quit.

The walk ignited something unstoppable in Emma Gatewood.

By the age of 75, she had completed the hike a further three times, breaking records as she went. She had also walked the 2,000 mile Oregon Trail from Missouri to Oregon, averaging 22 miles a day." ~ On This Day

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by Phyllis Bennis, Jackson Lears and Jeffrey Sachs

(I invited three insightful analysts of present-day U.S. foreign policy to share their thoughts in a roundtable discussion. Here are excerpts from Phyllis Bennis, Jackson Lears and Jeffrey Sachs.)

-- Norman Solomon*

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*Question*: How would you assess the most important aspects of current U.S. foreign policy?

*Phyllis Bennis*: I think the most important aspects are the most problematic ones. The focus on militarism that leads to a military budget this year of $921 billion, almost a trillion dollars, an unfathomable number translates to $0.53 out of every discretionary federal dollar going directly to the military. And if you add in the militarism side of things, the federal prison system, the militarization of the borders, ICE, deportations, all those things, you come up with $0.62 out of every discretionary federal dollar.

So the militarism is, I think, the single most important problem. The issue of unilateralism remains a huge problem when the rise of the so-called “global war on terror” essentially wiped out the possibility of a post-Cold-War peace dividend, which had currency for about a week, as I recall, and that unilateralism continues.

We're seeing that kind of continuing problem of U.S. foreign policy, and then the rising competition at the major power level -- U.S.-Russia, U.S.-China, all are shifting €“ all are moving in a greater way towards a military competition rather than the economic competition, because that's where the U.S. is unchallengeable; U.S. military capacity. You know, the U.S. spends more than the top ten, the next ten countries on their military all together, including big spenders like China, like Russia, like Saudi Arabia, like India.

These are overall problematic aspects that are the most crucial at the moment. Of course, the critical moment right now has to do with Israel and U.S. support for Israel. It was always assumed in the U.S. that you could never lose votes by being too pro-Israeli. And what a surprise. Turns out you can and Biden is. But that doesn't seem to be enough, at least so far, to create a change in real policy. So we're seeing the U.S. playing this role as the sole power that is enabling and protecting Israeli genocide, Israeli apartheid, settler colonialism, as well as the destruction of and undermining of international law.

So this whole issue that is now causing sort of a split in the Democratic Party, but not yet a full-scale split. Too much focus on what Biden personally believes, as if that should have any bearing whatsoever on U.S. policy. But it clearly does. Not taking into account the massive shifts in the discourse, the shifts in Jewish public opinion regarding Israel, you know that less than two years ago, 25% of American Jewish voters said that they believe Israel is an apartheid state; 38% of young Jewish voters said the same thing. So we're in this shifting position where there's just not enough pressure yet to force a shift in the policy now.

I think the framework of diplomacy, not war, is fundamental. That's been the demand of the broad sectors of the anti-militarism, anti-war movements of the last 20 years, going back to actually before that, to the first Gulf War, where the call was for diplomacy and not war. And right up to the present. I think that needs to be our continuing demand for what the government position should be. That doesn't mean that's enough for the position of our movement. There is a difference between what we demand of the government and what we demand of ourselves. But I think what we're seeing right now in the hot wars is that the U.S. is fighting against the calls for an immediate ceasefire and negotiations, both in Gaza most urgently and in Ukraine and that’s incredibly dangerous.

*Jackson Lears: *I appreciated Phyllis’ starting emphasis on the diversion of necessary resources from urgent needs at home in the military budget. This enormous, bloated, almost unimaginable, huge military budget. We are looking at a progressive left that to me seems so fragmented and incoherent in many ways, and so unsure of itself, that its leaders can't seem to make the connection between the military budget and the domestic problems that are being forced to go unaddressed. So it's important to keep emphasizing that connection between domestic and foreign policy, and a U.S. peace movement would have to do that.

It would also have to be an anti-imperialist movement -- and this to me, with the situation we're in today, involves fundamentally the problems of a dying empire that refuses to face up to its decline. The need for international cooperation has never been more urgent with respect to climate change, but also to the renewed nuclear arms race.

And yet U.S. policymakers are still mired in imperial delusions, fueling fights to maintain and extend their hegemony in Ukraine, Palestine and even in the South China Sea, and refusing to recognize the emerging reality of a multipolar world which is expressed in so many ways economically in the rise of the BRICS countries but also simply in the refusal of other nations to go along with what the imperial hegemon expects them to do.

Multipolarity is a fact of life. It's increasingly important in international affairs. It's staring us in the face and it dictates the need to retreat gracefully and intelligently from empire, which is a tricky business, I realize. But I think it's absolutely crucial for our own and indeed the planet’s survival. The other point I want to mention in connection with this, though, is the complicity of media stenographers in promoting what is essentially a very narrow range of opinion.

U.S. policymakers are increasingly out of step, not only with the younger portions of the population, but with the majority of the population on all of these issues of militarism and imperialism extending an already-overextended empire abroad, while neglecting crucial problems at home, and indeed crucial global problems such as climate change and nuclear war.

The mainstream media landscape is extraordinarily monochromatic and complicit in every way with government policies. And yet it doesn't represent the popular point of view. Which is why the obsessive references by our policymakers to “protecting our democracy” ring so hollow, so hypocritical and unconvincing.

So it does seem to me there's an opportunity here for a peace movement to address that gap, to speak to that disconnect between elite opinion and broad popular opinion. And it seems to me, as I said, any peace movement has to be an anti-imperialist movement. So there has to be a kind of realistic recognition of the actual power relations, the huge economic investment, but also the huge ideological and emotional investment, of powerful people in the existing order.

We have to acknowledge that obstacle and we have to figure out ways to address it. But we also have to figure out ways to broaden the appeal beyond a narrow ideological framework of anti-imperialism. And I have two words to suggest -- not ways of depoliticizing, but of softening the political edge and broadening its appeal. And those words are veterans and churches. As I’m recalling from peace movements of the past, both of those groups played critical roles, and I think they're both positioned to do so now more than ever. Veterans For Peace, for example, is an extraordinarily savvy and politically smart organization that is doing a lot of important work to change the conversation. And it's an uphill slog. There's no getting around it. The stenographers are always going to be at work protecting their access, making up stories, embracing Israeli, Ukrainian and U.S. government propaganda uncritically. But I do think we have a potential opening here if we could figure out ways to walk through it.

*Jeffrey Sachs*: U.S. foreign policy has one gear and one direction, which is war all the time, nonstop. There's no diplomacy at all. They don't understand diplomacy one bit. And most of the actual motives of the foreign policy are disguised, or let's say falsified, in the official narratives. So we have three wars, two hot, one cold going on right now.

Ukraine and Gaza, the two hot wars, and very high tensions with China as a cold war in Asia. It’s just U.S. belligerence. Morning till night, till morning till night. The Ukraine war is a war of NATO's enlargement, actually, pure and simple. It goes back 30 years. It was a strategy to weaken Russia after 1992, after the Soviet Union dissolved, they couldn't take yes for an answer and make peace.

They wanted to fill in all of the space that the Soviet Union had left behind with American hegemony and military bases. So, NATO enlargement began. It kept pushing towards Russia's borders. The Russian absolute red line was Ukraine, a point made repeatedly by the Russians, actually repeatedly, including by William Burns, the U.S. ambassador to Russia in 2008 and now our CIA director, in a famous memo that we know of only because of Julian Assange, who made public what should have been absolutely public for the U.S. And that is that *nyet *means *nyet* when it comes to expanding NATO to Ukraine.

Well, long story short, we don't have a reverse gear. We don't have a diplomatic gear. They just kept trying until today.

There's no pausing when it comes to Gaza. This is also a war that is caused by now 57 years of Israel's determination to hold onto everything that it got in the 1967 war. And everything else has been delaying tactics. But from 1967 onward, the goal has been hold onto the territory, settle it, put in hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers.

Now we have “facts on the ground” for 57 years of disaster and cruelty. And we have a genocide going on right now. I absolutely believe that Israel is violating the 1948 Genocide Convention and not even in subtle ways.

Then we have the tensions with China. This is blamed on China, but it's actually an American policy that began under Obama because China's success triggered every American hegemonic antibody that says China's becoming too big and powerful. It's now a threat because of its size, not because of its actions, but because of its size. China has not been involved in one war for more than 40 years, but we regard China as the belligerent.

And so we have surrounded China with our military. We're building up new alliances in the Pacific Rim of China. We are trying to control choke points. And when China reacts, we say, you see there are a danger there. Want to take over the world.

So long and short of it, we have a foreign policy that is built by the military-industrial complex. It is not in the interests of the American people. It is maintained through lies and fear-mongering. It is leading to destruction, as it has been for decades in wars all over the world. And Biden -- we don't know about Biden's capacities at this point, physically and mentally, but he has demonstrated no capacity for diplomacy at all.

The situation is absolutely dreadful. I think we all are saying strongly: diplomacy. What happened to it? Where did it go? We don't even see a word of it. It's unbelievable. And learning, again, to listen, to talk, to exchange, and the idea that actually peace is not a bad thing and we should try to do it.

*Bennis*: I think what we need is both a strengthening of the specifically-focused movements -- most particularly about Gaza, which I'll get to in a few seconds -- but we also need broad anti-militarism, anti-military-spending movements, particularly those that link to the other movements that are focusing on labor rights, on anti-racism, on environmental justice, on immigrant rights, on LGBTQ rights, on women's rights. In all of those areas people are paying the price for the cost of the war focus of U.S. foreign policy.

In that context, we need much broader outreach from the Palestinian rights movement. There is a lot of focus on consolidation of the movement, on getting the strongest and the most powerful expressions. But in my view, what's actually more powerful and more important than that right now is building on the breadth of that movement that we're seeing rising spontaneously.

It was a thousand black ministers in The New York Times signing on to the demand for ceasefire. The rabbis for ceasefire occupying the Security Council chamber at the U.N. These things are hugely important in terms not just of being part of a movement, but of showing the world the breadth of this movement. So I think that broadening becomes much more important, grabbing the spontaneous opposition that's out there and pulling that into the movement with less concern about the role of the left within that and the anti-imperialist component of it.

I think right now we need to talk about people's lives, and that means a movement demanding an immediate and permanent ceasefire. Ceasefire isn't the most left, the most anti-imperialist demand, whatever. It's what we need to stop the killing, and that's the movement that we need right now. We also need those broader anti-militarism movements. But right now we need a movement for a ceasefire.

*Lears*: I want to agree strongly with Phyllis that in the current emergency the absolutely urgent task is the ceasefire in Gaza. I have never felt the pain and sadness and anger that I've felt for the last few months -- probably not since the Vietnam War -- when I have known in such detail what was going on with my country's avid assistance and complicity.

We are all endlessly confronted by day the number of lives that are being destroyed and families torn up out of their surroundings and deported shamelessly, children targeted, actually targeted by snipers. I mean, it goes on and on. If you pay any attention, if you refuse to look away, then you are outraged and appalled.

And what's so striking to me about my colleagues in the academy -- not all of them by any means, at Rutgers we have a chapter of the Faculty for Justice in Palestine, and I signed on to it, and we back up the students supporting Palestine, of whom there are many -- but what I find so strange about what seem like a majority of my colleagues is that there’s a kind of business-as-usual approach to everyday life which I find very hard to emulate.

And I feel like we have to try to reorient the everyday discussion away from business as usual on social media. A recognition just in human terms of what's happening. So, you know, it's not as if I feel like you have to have a clearly worked-out vision of American empire to criticize what's happening in Gaza. You just have to have a few shreds of human sympathy. And that's what I think we need to try to address and work with as advocates for peace and opposition to a genocide. Think about the Air Force flier who immolated himself in front of the Israeli embassy with the words “Free Palestine” on his lips. He was yet another example of where we are now in this crisis.

*Question: *What are the most important dangers of nuclear war?

*Lears*: I think one can start answering that question by simply saying that they're the same dangers that have always been there -- accidents, miscalculation, confrontation. All of these events could involve either human or algorithmic error. On one occasion 40 some years ago a mistaken computer very, very nearly got Russian missiles launched on the basis of the way the sun happened to be hitting the clouds -- this is what the computer mistook for an incoming invasion. This was in the beginning of the Gorbachev era. A Russian colonel risked his career and his life probably, by calling off the launch because he sensed it was a mistake. And he was right. So that's how close we came.

And I'm sure that incident influenced Gorbachev and his gestures toward Reagan. And Reagan himself was influenced not only by the people in the street demanding a nuclear freeze, he was also profoundly influenced by the movie “The Day After,” which he watched twice. I'm no fan of Reagan's, believe me. I was I'm sure where my anti-war colleagues were with respect to almost everything he did. But on this question, he became a nuclear pacifist, though that didn't survive the influence of his advisers, Richard Perle in particular.

All of this is history. Times have changed. We still have all the same dangers, all the same cataclysmic possibilities. But we have a different context now, which is again, to return to what seems like a leitmotif here: the refusal of diplomacy and the scrapping of any arms-control treaties that have resulted from previous diplomacy. Hence the *Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists* has moved their Doomsday Clock to 90 seconds, the closest it's ever been.

We have no lines of connection open to other major nuclear powers, and especially Russia. We're not in touch the way Cold War presidents were in touch, even in the worst days of the Cold War. And we don't have the same popular sense of threat and urgency that I think existed during most of our lives from childhood on.

All of us lived under the shadow of nuclear war. All of us encountered those diagrams with concentric circles surrounding the cities where we happened to be growing up €“ charts and graphs that showed where a nuclear bomb’s impact would be the greatest and how it would continue for hundreds of miles outside that ground zero. We don't have those kinds of things staring us in the face anymore. And it's not part of our popular culture the way it was back in the sixties and seventies and earlier. We need to rekindle that sense of threat and urgency, along with reviving diplomacy.

That is where we are. And I would say the danger is particularly strong in the Middle East, given the nature of the current Israeli government, especially the fanaticism of the cabinet, along with Netanyahu himself. It's possible that Israel’s government could turn to nuclear weapons if their ethnic cleansing project is thwarted. And in Europe we are in comparable danger, given the eagerness of blustering NATO leaders to provoke Putin, who responds in kind. We’re starting this dance of death again, the dance we thought had ended with the end of the Cold War. One of the partners has to step aside.

*Bennis*: The only thing I would add, I think there is an escalated danger from accidental escalation towards a nuclear weapon. And that's particularly in Ukraine, certainly possible in many places, but particularly in Ukraine. It's different than in Syria, where the U.S. and Russia were faced off against each other, including troops as well as pilots and whatever on the ground, on opposite sides. But in Syria, they had a military-to-military hotline. There were some arms-control agreements still intact, and they provided at least the basis for a conversation between the two sides if things got even hotter. And now the possibility of an “accidental escalation,” which are never really accidental because the wars that create the circumstances in which they could occur are not accidents, but in the sense that it's not the intention of the people at the top of the power pyramid on either side to launch a nuclear weapon.

And yet escalation happens. That's the accidental nature of it. So I think that the lack of direct military-to-military contact, the lack of diplomatic contact, the lack of existing arms-control agreements, the virtual collapse of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. I think it is a more dangerous moment.

(Phyllis Bennis is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and serves on the national board of Jewish Voice for Peace. Her most recent book is the 7th updated edition of *Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer* (2018). Her other books include: *Before & After: U.S. Foreign Policy and the War on Terror* (2003) and *Challenging Empire: How People, Governments, and the U.N. Defy U.S. Power* (2005).

T.J. Jackson Lears is the Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of History at Rutgers University and the editor of *Raritan: A Quarterly Review*. Lears’s essays and reviews have appeared in *The Nation*, *The New Republic*, *The London Review of Books*, and *The New York Review of Books*. His books include *Something for Nothing: Luck in America*; *Fables of Abundance: A Cultural History of Advertising in America*, which won the LA Times book prize for history; and most recently, *Animal Spirits: The American Pursuit of Vitality from Camp Meeting to Wall Street*.

Jeffrey D. Sachs is a University Professor and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, where he directed The Earth Institute from 2002 until 2016. He has been advisor to three United Nations Secretaries-General, and currently serves as an SDG Advocate under Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Sachs is the author, most recently, of *A New Foreign Policy: Beyond American Exceptionalism* (2020). Other books include: *Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair, and Sustainable* (2017) and *The Age of Sustainable Development* (2015) with Ban Ki-moon.

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by Matt Taibbi

In late February a new book by journalist Paul Waldman and University of Maryland professor Thomas Schaller called White Rural Rage hit the bookshelves. The book was a compendium of Hee Haw! caricatures of hayseed America mixed with a blunt diagnosis: rural Americans are disproportionately racist, conspiratorial, authoritarian, and supportive of political violence, key culprits in the rise of Donald Trump. “Rural Americans,” Waldman and Waller wrote, “are overrepresented among those with insurrectionist tendencies.”

Media response was instantaneous and ecstatic. Morning Joe hyped White Rural Rage as if it were a cross of What Happened and The Grapes of Wrath; Mika Brzezinski sat rapt as Schaller described rural voters as “the most racist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-gay geo-demographic group in the country.” Echoing one of the book’s constant refrains, Paul Krugman at the New York Times wrote about “The Mystery of Rural White Rage,” complaining about the illogic of rural white disdain for Democrats, while Salon’s Amanda Marcotte after reading it felt emboldened to take off the “kid gloves” and pop rural America’s “racist, sexist, homophobic bubble.”

I was grumbling about this book when author Chris Hedges connected me with Les Leopold, director of the Labor Institute, who’d just written an opposite sort of book called Wall Street’s War on Workers, which turns out to be a thorough deconstruction of most of White Rural Rage:

Leopold has spent much of his career agitating for union causes, and though he’s persistently criticized the Democratic Party, it’s because he’s chiding them for too often advancing interests of wealthy donors over workers, which he sees both as a moral problem and bad electoral strategy. Wall Street’s War on Workers goes further, however, penetrating one of the chief media deceptions of the 21st century, namely that working-class voters are driven by racism and xenophobia, and not by a more simple, enraging motive: they’ve been repeatedly ripped off, by the wealthy donors to both parties.

As we discuss below, Leopold is going to have a hard time getting booked on Morning Joe or receiving shout-outs in Paul Krugman columns when his book features sections like “The Mischaracterization of White Working Class Politics” and “The Continued Mischaracterization of Populism.” The book is in the tradition of Thomas Frank’s seminal history of anti-populism, The People, No, which described the original Populist Party clashing with New York banking interests on issues like free silver, and quickly found itself caricatured, forever, as bigoted, stupid, and dangerous. Leopold is telling a similar story, but is more focused on the idiosyncrasies of the current clash, which he sees as rooted in competing narratives about a number: 30 million, his estimate of the number of laid-off Americans since 1996:

As Wall Street has routinized the financial strip-mining of productive enterprises, more than 30 million of us have experienced mass layoffs. And even more have felt the pain and suffering as our family members lost jobs.

As for where he got the number, he explains in a footnote that the “Bureau of Labor Statistics’ mass layoff database records 20.2 million layoffs for the years 1996 - “2012,” 2012 being the last year the stat was calculated. “If layoffs continued at that rate through 2022, the total number of layoffs would be 32.8 million.” Even 20 million in 16 years is a huge number. But it’s the often unexplained reasons for those layoffs that illustrate the enormity of the gulf of political misunderstanding between college urbanites and rural America.

Middle America has been screwed over in a hundred ways since the mid-nineties and even before. An even partial list of the scams I had to cover in the post-’08 period would turn this review into a novel, but a lot of investment schemes targeted middle-class, suburban and rural Americans (elderly urban minorities were also common marks) with a little bit of savings, and/or the institutional investors that held their retirement monies. The passage of NAFTA led to a lot of job losses, but a bigger cause is a phenomenon I’ve covered here and which Leopold tackles: stock buybacks. Buybacks happen when big companies use cash or borrow funds to buy their own stock on the marketplace, then retire the shares. Both the buying and the retiring tend to drive share prices up, which is a good thing for executives compensated in company stock, but less advantageous for those not privy to the company’s plans. For this reason, the SEC barred buybacks as manipulation until 1982, when the administration of Ronald Reagan instituted rule 10b-18, creating a “safe harbor” for such transactions. Leopold, examining a Department of Defense study of what contractors did with excess cash when they had it, writes:

Defense contractors increased their stock repurchases and dividends to shareholders by 73 percent in the last decade. Where to get all that money? For defense contractors it’s a no-brainer—take it from our tax dollars.

For the business sector, it is often extracted from the troubled companies through cost-cutting—including mass layoffs, wage and benefit cuts, shifting production to low-wage areas, and cutting spending on things like health, safety, environmental safeguards, and research and development.

The implications of this are crucial. As Leopold notes below, most people assume layoffs are just cold hard economic reality, the unavoidable result of market forces taking their toll on uncompetitive businesses. But it’s not always true. Healthy companies will cut jobs just to up share prices for executives, who increasingly are compensated in company equity. Leopold cites a stat saying 85% of executive compensation comes in the form of stock awards, creating massive incentives to spend on buybacks. I’ve seen both higher and lower numbers, but even the low end (Harvard Business Review put the number at 59% globally and 75% in “the Americas”) is significant. In the end, Leopold posits that while Democratic voters believe they need to shift to more illiberal positions to win working class voters, they’d more likely need to emphasize mass layoffs as a root of rural anger, which would force them to choose between Wall Street donors and rural votes. Survey findings turned up the following two conclusions, for instance: Some 10 to 25 million white working-class people are liberal on social issues but don’t identify as Democrats.

These non-Democrats are extremely worried about trade deals and imports, which likely reflects their concerns about job loss and job insecurity. There are elements of Leopold’s book with which I don’t fully agree. In places he seems to be trying to prove both that white working class voters have reasons to be angry and disappointed with the Democratic Party, and also that they’re not responsible for the Trump phenomenon, at least not exactly. For instance, he writes, “a higher percentage of white managers (30.4 percent) than of white workers (25.1 percent) say they voted in the Republican congressional primaries.” Trump is so toxic with progressive voters that I think it’s hard to write in an unembarrassed way for that audience about his success in connecting with those voters, or recent war veterans, for instance. Leopold spends time proving that the crowd on January 6th wasn’t working class. I wouldn’t have bothered — what if they were? — but Leopold is writing about the phenomenon of blame, to the people doing the blaming, so it makes sense on that level.

This book prompted some additional thoughts for me which I’ll publish separately, but I’ll give way here to Leopold himself, with whom I had a long discussion:

MT: What prompted you to write the book?

Les Leopold: It’s almost embarrassing. I’m a graduate of Oberlin College and in the middle of the pandemic they decided to lay off like 105 UAW blue collar workers that worked in the cafeteria and then cleaned after the students. I just couldn’t figure out why they did it. A bunch of us got involved in trying to stop it, and of course we failed, but we raised a lot of money for the workers. But what struck me was their stories when they started to talk to me about what they went through and the disappointment, the hardship and the crushing depression that they had.

And it was totally needless. I mean, I don’t even think they’re going to save any money. They went to some subcontractor, they had some sort of bullshit argument. So it caused me to start thinking: how big is this mass layoff problem? It turns out it’s a huge thing and it’s metastasized all through the economy. I can’t think of a sector that isn’t going through mass layoffs —

MT: Sorry to interrupt, but wasn’t a key element of the surprise of that story was that Oberlin is like the cradle of progressivism, and the justification didn’t seem to be there?

Les Leopold: We couldn’t come up with any motive. They had this whole thing about how they’re going to have to tighten their belts and all that, and they had this thing called “One Oberlin,” and it included everybody in Oberlin, students, the faculty, etc., except the workers. In other words, it was going to be collective austerity, but what we’re going to do is tighten our belts by screwing the workers. We happened to have a reunion at that point and I was out there and tried to asked them: “Well, how the hell can you do this?” They said, “Oh, they have contracts. They’re not allowed to make any concessions.” Well, give me a break. What planet are you guys on? Anyway, it just got me going. If this liberal college could do it - and they were really behaving just like every other corporation - then forget about it. That’s what got me to start looking at mass layoffs. What is that process?

MT: What’s the biggest misconception about layoffs?

Les Leopold: Most people think that mass layoffs are inevitable, right? They’re the result of technology, globalization. You can’t do anything about it, and that’s why nobody cares about it. Oh, AI is going to come in, something else is going to come in. We’re going to lay off workers. You can’t do anything about it. And all you have to do is open the hood a little bit, and what you’ll find behind most mass layoffs is a stock buyback and/or a leveraged buyout. They’ve taken a shitload of loans using a company as collateral and now to service those loans, you lay off a couple thousand workers and you’re all set. It’s remarkable. And then the BS that they tell working families is, “don’t worry, your kids, they’re going to get educated. They’re going to get high-tech jobs.” But last year, the high-tech industry laid off 262,000 workers, and so far it’s 57,000 this year.

MT: Yikes.

Les Leopold: These are booming, highly profitable industries. They’re also the leaders in stock buybacks. The best way to pay for stock buyback is just lop off a bunch of workers. Of course you probably know that better than I do. This has been ripping through the news industry, all kinds of consolidations that go on where a private equity company comes in and the first thing they do is cut costs. Right? Lay off workers.

MT: That happened a ton of that in the years leading up to the pandemic. I think it was $2 trillion in the three years preceding the CARES Act.

Les Leopold: You think we would’ve all learned a lesson from the Carrier air conditioning company. Because it’s a double story. First part of the story is that the reason Carrier was going to move to Mexico in 2017 was that 12 hedge funds took a position in the parent company, United Technologies. They told UT they wanted a stock buyback, so they decided to move Carrier to Mexico and that would save them like $50 or $60 million a year, and that would help finance the stock buybacks. Then Trump jumped in, stuck his foot in his mouth, but he ended up with Pence keeping most of the jobs. The polling on that turned out to be wildly popular.

You would think liberals would’ve learned the lesson that if you stand up and stop a plant from closing, you’ll gain a lot of popularity with the voting population. Now the other interesting thing is, why did the CEO go along with this? The president of United Technology said this is his code: “I was born at night, but I wasn’t born last night.” They get 10% of their money from the federal government and contracts, so there’s about $700 billion worth of federal contracts put out every year. Imagine if they were just told, guess what? You can’t do mass layoffs if you want that.

You can try to buy people out, use some of your stock buyback money and basically entice workers to leave. But if the taxpayers are paying for this federal contract, you can’t be laying off taxpayers. Can this be done? Can capitalism function this way? Well, that was the other discovery when we worked on the book. I hated to go after Bernie. Bernie and Biden did not distinguish themselves on these mass layoffs. Bernie did a beautiful ad about a mass layoff at Siemens in Iowa. I think it was during his 2019 election run. It’s a Facebook ad and he just says, “Not on my shift will this happen.” We give Siemens $760 million in federal contracts, they’re not going to be laying off workers. It’s beautiful.

Two years later, Siemens, which is in upstate New York on that southern tier right above Pennsylvania, used to be a very industrial area, is hard hit. They decide to lay off their facility there. That’s 500 union jobs, another 1,200 around the country for a total of 1,700, plus 3,000 in Germany. Schumer doesn’t do anything other than try to find a new company to go in there. Bernie doesn’t say anything, and this is when the Democrats are controlling everything. He doesn’t say anything at all. It’s not his state. What happens - this is the part that kind of breaks your heart - in Germany where they have co-determination, workers have half the board seats. They go through this long investigation and they finally convinced Siemens in Germany not to lay off anybody in a compulsory way, only voluntary layoffs. You have to buy ‘em out. And there were six facilities that were going to go down. They decided to keep all six open and put out a different product. No plant closings, no compulsory layoffs. What happens in the States? The woman who is president of Siemens, USA gets invited along with 10 other people to the infrastructure signing bill at the White House, and she’s got the nerve to say, while she’s laying off 1,700 people, that this bill is going to be great for creating new green jobs for American workers. This breaks your heart. And then there’s another one. 1,500 USW members making $70,000 a year. It’s an oil and chemical plant in Morgantown, West Virginia. Those have got to be among the highest blue collar paying jobs in all of West Virginia. They’re going to shut down. This is in the middle of the pandemic. They’re going to shut down this generic pharmaceutical plant, move it to India. Now, workers there got very mobilized. They had all these demonstrations. They went to the governor and they said, look, why don’t you just take over the plant? We’ll make generic drugs for Medicaid and for the VA. We’ll have great audience. No, no, no. They go to Manchin. No, no, no. They go to Biden, ask him to use the Defense Production Act. This is the time to use it. You just used it on the baby formula. Why don’t you use it on generic drugs? Nope. Bernie’s organization gets involved, comes to their demonstrations, does a protest letter, then silence. The Democrats don’t do anything. The plant goes down.

MT: You have a chapter in there about misperceptions of the White Working Class. Can you summarize the key points?

Les Leopold: In order to make this argument, I had to do one thing. I had to convince myself and then hopefully the reader, that the impact of workers turning away from the Democrats, the white working class in particular, wasn’t people would come back at me like a Krugman say, “No, no, it’s not all this economic instability. It’s really their anti-wokeness, their deplorableness,” that it was their resentment against elites and all that stuff. I had to prove to myself that wasn’t true. So there are these very large voter surveys, with 50, 60, 70,000 people, three voter surveys that track voters over time. We created a cohort of white working class people, not just based on education, but also based on income.

We looked at 23 social issue questions that were really divisive, and the white working class in fact got more liberal, not more conservative over that period. Should gay couples be allowed to adopt in the last 20 years? It’s gone from 38% approval to 76% approval. They have a question there about legalizing illegal immigrants who’ve been here three years, paid their taxes, and have no felonies. That went from 32% support of that 15 years ago, now it’s 62% support. And we compared the white working class versus white working class management on a whole slew of questions.

There’s hardly any difference, so you can’t put it on them. And then of course for me, I couldn’t help but dive into Mingo County, West Virginia.

MT: A famous place in the history of labor struggle.

Les Leopold: It’s a story where the Democrats just gave the state to the Republicans. Bill Clinton got 69.7% of the vote in West Virginia, and Biden got 13.9%. What happened? So this is a white county. It’s where the United Mine Workers started, home of Mother Jones, so neglected that in the 70s it took a visit from a Soviet journalist to get a bridge fixed. In the early 20th century it was under military occupation for about 10 years because there was such violence. The company goons versus the workers. And then of course, the New Deal came in. Roosevelt liberated them. They became staunch Democrats all the way really. But after Clinton, it kept going down, down, down, down. What happened between 1996 and 2016? That county of 25,000 people lost the most coal jobs of any county in the whole country. You went from 3,300 to 300. That’s 3000 lost jobs out of a population of 25,000. So what in fact did the Democrats do?

They were in power for all but eight years of that period. Well, what they could have done is they could have easily gone from location to location, ask what needs to be done in this are… You want your schools redone, roads redone, mine reclamation, Internet, clean up the rivers, the whole nine yards. They could have hired 3000 people probably, and good paying jobs, put them to work. What did they do? Well, they went to the free market. They let the free market take care of it. The opioid prescription industry came in. Two small drug stores decided to go into the opioid prescription business. One of them, a guy who just got out of jail in Washington DC, came down and they got a doctor to just write prescriptions, and they were putting out a prescription per minute. Cars were lined up from a five-state area to get their prescriptions filled that they could easily get. That’s what the free market brought. Imagine if you live in this county. You think, this is what government has done for me.

So this whole issue has just been swept under the rug. It’s hard for me to get it out from under the rug. We estimate 30 million people have gone through a mass layoff since 1996.

MT: That number is amazing. It would explain almost the entire shift in American politics.

Les Leopold: I hate to be so focused on one force, but it’s a powerful force. I mean, think about it. Look, you and I are lucky. We have skills where we can move around. It’s not devastating, but can you imagine if you just go from one unstable situation to another? I saw it in these Oberlin workers. A couple of them got very anti-liberal. They used to respect this liberal college and its values, but now they’ve been treated like this for no reason and goodbye. They don’t respect them anymore. I asked the question at a steelworkers’ workshop with about 50 people in there. I said, how many people here have gone through a mass layoff. It was 48.

I just tried to put myself in the position of somebody in rural Pennsylvania, a thousand people working at a plant, and it goes down. Now you and all your neighbors are looking for a job at the same time, you’re having trouble making your payments. Maybe you finally get a job at the dollar store or at the local prison or whatever, orderly at the hospital, who knows? And then something else happens and you get laid off again. The whole world seems economically unstable. How can you not blame the government for that?

MT: Let’s cut to the political aspect of this. Trump in 2016 went to a lot of places that were struggling. He visited devastated areas and people would come down from the hills to watch. It wasn’t so much that he had convincing solutions to anything that they were going through. He was just paying attention. Then he started adding bits to his stump speech.

“Don’t you see how bad it is? The jobs are going everywhere. Opiates are a disaster, right?” And then people would look up and see stories in the media saying, “Well, it’s really not economics that’s driving this, these people are just racist.” It felt like a double whammy, a double insult. Isn’t that a pretty easy political cycle to break just by talking? By listening?

Les Leopold: Yes and no. Yes, I think that you’re seeing the Democrats trying to do that, but I think you actually have to be willing to take on Wall Street, and I think that’s hard for Democrats to do. And I think you’ve got to remember Trump also had the trade issue. He out-flanked the Democrats on the trade issue, the first Republican to ever do that.

The way he basically said, look, you’re losing your jobs. The company would tell them, “We’re moving to China, we’ve got to shut this plant down,” or “We’re moving to Mexico” or something. This had been going on for 20 years with the Democrats on the wrong side of the issue, refusing to deal with it. So paying attention I think is important. What I found interesting, this is almost embarrassing. I look at Ohio and Senator Sherrod Brown, and somebody sends me this piece that he did. Get this, it’s called “Wall Street’s War on Workers: Stock Buybacks.”

I go, holy cow, he stole the book. This is great. And it turns out it was a piece from 2019. I didn’t know that he had written it, obviously he didn’t know that I’d written it, but he did three pieces all on the theme of Wall Street’s war on workers, and job insecurity. Wall Street created job insecurity, one after the other. He’s using this to campaign in Ohio. Now, the question I ask is, why aren’t all the Democrats in those kinds of states doing that? We were able to statistically show with a high degree of certainty that as the mass layoff rate goes up in a given county in the “Blue Wall” states, the Democratic vote goes down. So why wouldn’t you attack the causes of mass layoffs in those states? Talk to workers about that and how to solve it.

I’m going to make sure that every government contract the company gets, they won’t be able to force you out. They’ll have to buy you out. Why not do that? Because they’ll blow away their Wall Street support and they actually don’t believe, except for maybe a handful of them, that you should interfere with the prerogatives of capital. And hiring and firing seems almost sacred to them. So if you touch that, they’re going to be accused of being anti-corporate and basically ridden out of town, and they’re more worried about that than they are about doing what you suggest, which is going out there and talking to people, and giving them a sense of hope about job stability. That if you elect me, I’m going to fight for this so that you don’t go from job to job to job. I’m going to take on Wall Street.

MT: To conclude, I just have two really quick questions for you. First, you mentioned pundits like Paul Krugman, how they don’t really believe this is an issue. Are there a lot of people in Washington who think this issue is fictional? Is it possible that it’s a problem of an informational bubble?

Les Leopold: I might be more cynical than you are here. I think there’s some of that bubble, but there are also certain political people who, at least in my experience with them, know there’s a fair amount of job insecurity there as well. So my cynical side says they want that Wall Street cash and they want the door open for a job in the future. There are a lot of lobbying jobs, political congressional staff, members of Congress themselves. They can get a job on Wall Street. If they get a big job or they can get smaller job, a well paid job, a lobbyist, earning way more than they were earning before. So why would you want to offend these people?

I also think the other side of it is that there’s a certain awe, I’m sure you saw this when we were both writing books about the crash. I mean, there’s an awe of how smart these people are. So I think there’s an intimidation factor: I don’t really want to go to war with these people. They’re very well armed, but also they’re smart and they have all the best lawyers. And so I think that’s one part of it.

MT: The other question is how receptive people in media have been to this book. I just can’t even imagine what the Morning Joe interview would be like if you tried to say any of these things. I think it’s a message that people have to hear, but is there any way to get past the Current Thing attitudes on this, which insist the entire story is racism, bigotry, etc?

Les Leopold: You hit it on the head. It is not a story. People want to hear what the media wants them to hear. That book White Rural Rage that came out. That book drove me crazy at first. It also starts in Mingo County, but the way they tell the story was that when Obama got elected, that’s when they lost the vote.

MT: Is that true? Obama did really well in a lot of these places.

Les Leopold: Obama got in his second term, right? Obama got three times the percentage that Biden got, but they ignore that. So what they do is they create a new group of people called white rural people, not even working class. It’s white rage of the white rural people. It’s like if you don’t live in an urban or suburban area, you’re part of this white rage. That sells, that gets them on all the talk shows. So we’re struggling. And that’s why I really appreciate getting an opportunity with you because it is very hard to break through. I don’t fit in there.

This story doesn’t fit in. I’m hoping though, if I were talking on the Morning Joe show, I’d be saying, Hey Joe, I’m not going to talk to you about this. But there are a lot of people that work in your network here worried about a mass layoffs.

MT: I think they still have a NABET contract.

Les Leopold: And what protection do they have against it? I mean, why so much insecurity all over the place? And if you can get them to just admit that it’s a big problem, then you can have an argument about the proper solutions.

MT: Les, I appreciate it. Good luck with the book.

Les Leopold: Thank you!

* * *

Edward Hopper, Summertime 1943

* * *


by Ezra Pound

After Li Po

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead
I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.
You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,
You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.
And we went on living in the village of Chōkan:
Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.
At fourteen I married My Lord you.
I never laughed, being bashful.
Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.
Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.

At fifteen I stopped scowling,
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours
Forever and forever, and forever.
Why should I climb the look out?

At sixteen you departed
You went into far Ku-tō-en, by the river of swirling eddies,
And you have been gone five months.
The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.

You dragged your feet when you went out.
By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,
Too deep to clear them away!
The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.
The paired butterflies are already yellow with August
Over the grass in the West garden;
They hurt me.
I grow older.
If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,
Please let me know beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you
As far as Chō-fū-Sa.

* * *



  1. mark donegan April 11, 2024

    Thank you Chamise. Appreciate the update. I take this as good news. I know it is hard, but time and truth are on your side. Obviously, everyone is running for shelter. That is also good.

    • Lazarus April 11, 2024

      I am surprised at how little attention the posters here give the Cubbinson fiasco. The AVA covers everything they get, but it seems there is little intellectual interest.
      Personally, I think it’s a huge story. With DA Dave taking a hike and then the Judge doing the same, what’s up with that?
      The case has the appearance of getting kicked down the road in hopes of the public outrage dying down a bit also. And perhaps that is working.
      But I hope Ms. Cubbinson wins in court and is made whole again by the County, which has stripped her of her livelihood and reputation. If money can make that possible…
      Another shameful episode of dysfunctional Mendocino County government.
      And where’s the guy who set this so-called embezzlement deal up to begin with, the former County Auditor? Why hasn’t the Heat yanked on him?
      As always,

      • Chuck Dunbar April 11, 2024

        Am happy to agree with every point you make here, it is a mess. I hope she is found innocent and sues the heck out of everyone.

      • MAGA Marmon April 11, 2024

        He’s the prosecutions main witness. He took the deal.

        MAGA Marmon

        • Lazarus April 11, 2024

          “He’s the prosecution’s main witness. He took the deal.”

          Please explain…Is that opinion, or do you know something?
          Thank you,

      • mark donegan April 11, 2024

        Just as good if not better is the former GSA heads departure.

        • BRICK IN THE WALL April 11, 2024

          Cubbison has already won even without a court appearance. She has my vote.

      • Carrie Shattuck April 12, 2024

        Agree. I was surprised that no one was following her court dates on Wednesday, April 10th, besides me. At 9am Judge Shannahan announced she was recusing herself from the case and that Judge Moorman would now be the presiding Judge at 1:30 in Department E. The next court date is April 23rd at 9am Dept. E. The new trial date is May 14th at 9:30.

        I wonder how many Reimbursment Requests from the DA have been approved in the last 6 months since they kicked Chamise out?

  2. Me April 11, 2024

    “PROOF that Mensa tests nothing more than human vanity is its claim that the Redwood Empire chapter contains 200 persons. Where the heck are all these geniuses? There are none in government, none practicing law, none sitting as judges, none in public education. ”

    Maybe they are smart enough to avoid such frustrating professions!

    • Bob A. April 11, 2024

      Or maybe those that are truly proficient in their fields don’t have the time or desire for a pointless ego stroke in the form of a wallet card?

  3. Michael Koepf April 11, 2024

    “I don’t know of any conservative writers who aren’t ideologically poisoned. And are lousy writers, too. ” Editor. Including Tom Hine?

  4. BRICK IN THE WALL April 11, 2024

    RE: THE PHOTO OF “what’s missing?” Missing the Coleman’s mustard, and the HP sauce, other than that a bit of Hagis would help.

  5. Kirk Vodopals April 11, 2024

    From Pogo to Hopper…. excellent selections today!

    • Chuck Dunbar April 11, 2024

      Also, that selection of the fine Ezra Pound poem

  6. Chuck Dunbar April 11, 2024


    I am kind of intrigued, on most days, at the facial expressions in the booking photos of new arrestees. (Also, to see them as a whole, always makes me glad I was never a sheriff’s deputy performing a hard, unsung job for us all.) Today’s 6 faces show 4 pretty grim ones, then on the other 2, smiles. One wonders why. The young lady has just a hint of a smile, but it’s seen in her mouth and her eyes, too—like maybe she’s got a secret. The other smiler, a guy, has a kind of maniacal smile, perhaps forced by his circumstances, which included “resisting,” never a wise move. But everyone has their story, and who knows?

    • Mazie Malone April 11, 2024

      I noticed that too, always intriguing.
      Must be mortifying to be arrested well unless you are out of your mind. Which technically most people are. I do not see anything getting better we will be seeing a lot more crime and arrests, homelessness. Ugghh.

      mm 💕

      • Eric Sunswheat April 11, 2024

        Interesting, withdrawal not pretty…
        —> January 17, 2024
        A leading researcher of the placebo effect, Irving Kirsch, examined forty-seven drug company studies on various antidepressants. These studies included published and unpublished trials, but all had been submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so Kirsch used the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to all data. He reported that “all antidepressants, including the well-known SSRIs . . . had no clinically significant benefit over a placebo.”
        The adverse effects of antidepressant drugs have long been known and acknowledged by psychiatry and Big Pharma. Even that “sad blob” Zoloft commercial mentions the side effects of “dry mouth, insomnia, sexual side effects, diarrhea, nausea, and sleepiness” (omitted are several other adverse effects that affect a high percentage of patients, including debilitating withdrawal reactions that can be severe and persistent).

        • Mazie Malone April 11, 2024

          When able to avoid Rx meds I do so, I prefer natural remedies. Although all Rxs have side effects the idea should be to get off of them if at all possible, but don’t knock them cause they very well can be life-sustaining. In the case of anti-depressants which I fortunately have never had to take they have worked for bipolar with suicidal ideation, there is no more of that! The conventional and psychiatric meds are a necessary life-saver!!

          mm 💕

  7. Kirk Vodopals April 11, 2024

    Listening to Pinoli whine about national freight rail service is beyond ridiculous given the Skunks status as an over-priced tourist-dependent novelty train and the Skunks bullying of adjacent landowners.

  8. Bob A. April 11, 2024

    Out of curiosity, I followed the link to MendoFever and got hit with just shy of 500 tracking attempts. I don’t recommend going there without at least uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger installed or you might be in for some nasty surprises.

    • Matt LaFever April 12, 2024

      That’s weird Bob. I’ll look into that.

      • Bob A. April 12, 2024

        Contacted you at your email address with my contact info.

  9. Cantankerous April 11, 2024


    Uri Berliner, you mean to tell me you didn’t notice when NPR first used the term “People of Color” ? I believe it was in the late 80’s, when I first heard it. I remember where I was, and how I felt. It was without a doubt one of the saddest days of my life, and it was the end of my relationship with NPR.

  10. Matt Kendall April 11, 2024

    Hippy girl
    “The term can be descriptive or derogatory and was not initially used by the youths to describe themselves.” I can remember my father using that term a lot in the 1970s.
    I’m still thinking of going hippie when I finish Sheriffing. Sadly I can’t fit into the tie dye my shirt my daughter made for me in preschool many years ago. I think it shrunk in the dresser while I wasn’t looking.

  11. Cantankerous April 12, 2024

    Find the good in ‘erbody

    Good, but not up-to-date.
    Remember the stories of The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood?

    • Cantankerous April 12, 2024

      Be good.
      Do good things.

      It helps to make the world a happier place,
      It helps boost feelings of confidence,
      It helps feeling in control,
      It helps create feelings of joy,
      It helps create optimism…

      It takes practice.

      😃…it feels good, and it makes other people feel good.

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