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RAIN LATE SATURDAY and into Sunday. Windy during the rain this weekend with windspeeds up to 15mph. Around five inches of rain in total this season so far.
LOTS OF INTERESTING SENIOR JOB OPENINGS for Mendocino County:
According to governmentjobs.com Mendo is looking for several new senior people: Ag Commissioner, Assistant Auditor, Assistant Public Defender, Chief Probation Officer, Planning and Building Director, and Shelter Supervisor. Current “interim” Ag Commissioner Diane Curry has yet to be made permanent and Mendo is looking for a permanent replacement for her, even though she’s been in the job for almost a year now, having been in the office going back to 2011 or earlier.
Assistant Auditor is an interesting opening because the Auditor is an elected position which has historically gone to the Assistant upon the Auditor’s retirement because nobody runs against whoever is in office at the time. When the Auditor retires, the Assistant Auditor quietly takes over no matter who they are or what their qualifications are.
Assistant Public Defender is an opening created by the appointment of current Assistant Public Defender Carly Dolan to the Superior Court bench. Since it appears Public Defender Linda Thompson is finally retiring, the Assistant Public Defender would be next in line for the job, but it won’t be the reasonable capable Dolan. We assume somebody from the local “Defense Bar” will get the Assistant job, perhaps the Alternate Public Defender whoever that is at the moment, then they’ll be perfunctorily promoted to Public Defender when Thompson retires. (Unless the Supervisors appoint a hiring committee of local lawyer like they did back when Wes Hamilton was hired as Public Defender over Linda Thompson at the time because, according to now retired judge Rick Martin who was on the panel who told me that they picked Hamilton because Thompson had almost no actual trial experience (because she almost always pled them out and seldom went to trial). Thompson became Public Defender when Hamilton soon retired because she was the only applicant that time.
The Chief Probation Officer job is open because the very expensive retired Sonoma County Chief Probation Officer Robert Ochs is also an “interim” position, appointed by the judges to fill the position of disgraced Chief Probation Officer Pamela Markham. The fact that the acting Chief Probation Officer who filled in during the many months that Markham was on “paid administrative leave” (Kevin Kelley) was not and has not been appointed means somebody at the Courthouse is uncomfortable enough to want to force the County to pay the even bigger bucks for Ochs for however long it takes to find the next Chief Probation Officer. (Although it could easily end up being Kelley anyway.)
Interim Planning And Building Director Ignacio “Nash” Gonzalez seems to be doing ok in the job, so that’s another mystery as to why he hasn’t simply been appointed Planning and Building Director. We don’t know what’s taking so long to fill Sage Mountainfire’s Shelter Supervisor job. As far as we know Animal Control Officer Rich Molinari is doing fine — maybe Mendo doesn’t even need a “shelter supervisor.”
And, although not exactly a job opening, we notice that Health and Human Services Agency Director Tammy Moss-Chandler has been assigned to disaster recovery with extreme CEO Angelo loyalist Anne Molgaard now as “acting HHSA Director.” No one seems to have noticed that HHSA has been operating with only one figurehead “director” for more than a month now.
Then we have three short-time Supervisors: Dan Hamburg, Carre Brown, and Georgeanne Croskey.
The conclusions we can draw from all this official personnel turmoil are that 1. Mendo seems all too happy with “interim” (and costly) management staff most of them hand-picked by CEO Carmel Angelo, and 2. CEO Carmel Angelo finds herself in an increasingly cemented, not to say royal, status with nobody in Official Mendo in any position to question or challenge her alleged authority, much less dare to get on her shit list.
* * *
KATHY SHEARN NOTES: "The shelter supervisor job is for Fort Bragg. The county is planning on reversing their decision from several years ago to close the Ft Bragg shelter--I'm not sure of the time frame but I guess fairly soon if they're looking for a kennel worker and shelter supervisor."
GROUNDBREAKING PROTECTIONS FOR WILDFIRE VICTIMS
From the Utility Reform Network (TURN):
Together we watched in horror as devastating fires raged through eight counties in California, the worst in our state’s history. With 42 deaths and the destruction of over 7,000 homes and businesses, the fires have left a trail of misery and pain in their wake. Today I’m pleased to be able to tell you that TURN has won groundbreaking protections for impacted customers, so that our neighbors who suffered through this tragedy do not end up facing any additional hardships from their phone, water, or energy companies.
We urged the California Public Utilities Commission to order utilities to remove any barriers to wildfire victims rebuilding their lives. On November 9, the CPUC agreed to require PG&E, SoCal Edison, SoCal Gas, SDG&E, and Liberty to waive deposits and late payment fees for uprooted victims. Smaller utilities serving the impacted counties, which include: Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Solano, Sonoma, and Yuba, will do the same. Other protections include amnesty for payment plans and re-certifications for assistance programs.
TURN research director Regina Costa lives in the North Bay and knows the challenges facing families who lost their homes or livelihoods. "Seeing the devastation, everything that people have lost, it’s completely heartbreaking," said Costa, "we want to make sure that these people can focus on getting back on their feet."
California wildfires destroyed homes in Sonoma County. TURN is also watching the CPUC very closely to make sure YOU don’t get stuck with the costs of utility mistakes like wildfires, speaking out in the media to demand accountability from PG&E, SDG&E and other utility companies.
ACTION POINT: If you are a consumer that was impacted by the wildfires and see any suspicious fees, or charges, on your utility bill, or if you are being threatened with a shutoff for non-payment please call the TURN hotline at 1-800-355-8876. TURN is also interested in learning whether the reverse 911 system worked properly. If you or someone you know received a reverse 911 call, or were supposed to and didn’t, let us know at (415) 929-8876.
THE SEX CIRCUS
I ASKED ELEANOR COONEY: What do you think of the sex scandals? I'm probably wrong, but this kind of thing didn't seem as prevalent in my youth, not that anyone did any surveys or even talked about it. My mother, a registered nurse, said she got "pinched" a lot, but seemed to assume it as a given of the female experience. She often told a story about John Wayne when he checked into the Marin General Hospital to rest after making an epic called China Camp near San Rafael. "Now there was a real man," she said. "And a perfect gentleman," looking pointedly at my deficient (in her eyes) father. My daughter says she's received her share of verbal unpleasantness but nothing beyond that. She also said that when she lived in the Castro gay men would hiss mean stuff at her on the street. She said her friends had the same experience, which was a revelation to me. Nothing surprises me anymore, and in a sexually obsessed culture like ours everyone seems to be enjoying the scandals. I am, certainly, although I was sorry to see Kevin Spacey fall. I liked him in House of Cards.
Is there more of this stuff than there used to be? Possibly. The "sexual revolution" of the sixties turned all of us loose, and this could be the flip side. On the other hand, sexual abuse back in the "good old days" was way more tightly contained, and victims had just about zero recourse. Peel back the Norman Rockwell veneer, and all kinds of abominations doubtless festered beneath. Pornography's always been around, of course (wasn't FANNY HILL published in, like, 1748?), and in the late 1800s and early 1900s Anthony Comstock made it his business to try to stamp it out (the ultimate futility), but of course nowadays the world of hyper-smut is only a click away. It would be naive to declare that this has no influence. The porn of today is to the porn of yesteryear as an AK-47 assault rifle is to a flintlock...
But this whole "sex scandal" biz is getting out of hand. If ever there was a situation that called for nuanced thinking, this is it. And we're failing. We're at a point now where Al Franken pretending to grope whatsername's titties through a Kevlar vest is the equivalent, in the quasi-hysterical public mind, of Bill Cosby drugging and raping or Roy Moore trying to force an underage girl to give him a blowjob in a car. A hand on the knee is not the same thing at all as a hand on the crotch. It just isn't. And now, of course, stupid ugly rankly hypocritical politics has poked its opportunistic snout into the mess…with President Pussygrabber himself waving the baton.
I, too, mourn the loss of Kevin Spacey. What an actor. First became aware of him in "The Usual Suspects," and totally dug him. Remember the moment in "House of Cards" where he sets up his drunk friend in a faked suicide in the garage? I swear, Spacey sucked his eyes back into his head a fraction of a centimeter, making his sockets two sinister caves… What an actor.
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “Skrag saunters past me today and says, ‘Are you a Black Friday shopper, Little Dog? Oh, sorry. Didn't see the chain.’ Every day a new insult!”
RURAL CALIFORNIA GRAPPLES WITH ‘GREEN RUSH’ OF POT GROWERS
by Paul Elias
Copperopolis, California. The four young men had just started their marijuana harvest in rural Northern California when a dozen sheriff's deputies swooped in with guns drawn, arrested them and spent the day chopping down 150 bushy plants with machetes.
"I could do this every day if I had the personnel," Calaveras County Sheriff Rick DiBasilio said during the operation near the Sierra foothills town of Copperopolis, about two hours east of San Francisco.
Authorities this year have cut down close to 30,000 plants grown without permits in a county that is reconsidering its embrace of marijuana cultivation on the eve of statewide legalization.
"There are just so many of them," the sheriff said of the illegal farms. "It's never-ending."
Marijuana has deeply divided the financially strapped county, among many where growers are increasingly open about their operations and are starting to encroach on neighborhoods.
DiBasilio estimates the county — population 44,000 and about the size of Rhode Island — has more than 1,000 illegal farms in addition to the hundreds with permits or in the process of obtaining them.
The influx has caused a backlash among residents and led to the ouster of some county leaders who approved marijuana cultivation.
Pot farmers operating legally, meanwhile, say they are helping the local economy, and have threatened to sue over attempts to stop them.
California is set to issue licenses in January to grow, transport and sell weed for recreational purposes, nearly 20 years after the state first authorized the drug's consumption with a doctor's recommendation.
Farmers can legally grow marijuana for recreational consumption next year but are required to get a local permit before applying for a state license, which has sparked a boom in pot-friendly counties.
Calaveras County legalized medical marijuana cultivation last year, seeking to tax the hundreds of farms that popped up in the region after a 2015 wildfire destroyed more than 500 homes. County officials expected to receive about 250 applications by the 2016 deadline. They got 770. About 200 applications have been approved, a similar number rejected, and the others are still being processed.
The sheriff gets some of the nearly $10 million in fees and taxes paid by legal farmers to crack down on illegal grows, many of which the department has mapped from the air.
The new pot farms have brought a bustling industry that includes the sounds of generators, bright lights illuminating gardens at night, water trucks kicking up dust on their way to grows, the distinct odor of marijuana, and tents, trailers and other temporary housing for migrant workers. Local hardware stores' gardening sections are now stocked with pot farming supplies.
Law enforcement officials say they have raided farms where they've found pesticides that are banned in the US.
"It has changed our way of life," said Bill McManus, head of an organization seeking to ban marijuana in Calaveras County. "The environmental impacts are atrocious."
To the north, even the fabled pot-growing mecca known as the Emerald Triangle has been thrown into political turmoil as more farmers set up shop ahead of legalization.
The California Growers Association estimates about 3,500 farmers in Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties have applied for local permits and will be in positon to receive a state license.
Another 29,000 farmers there haven't bothered with the paperwork, according to the group.
Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman complained his county's laws allowing cultivation are too "gentle" and attract violent crime, including a farmworker's recent homicide.
In Siskiyou County, leaders declared a state of emergency and called on Gov. Jerry Brown to help with an influx of marijuana farmers, who have snatched up inexpensive land for planting even though pot cultivation is illegal there. Two growers were arrested and charged with offering Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey $1 million to leave their farms alone.
"That's all you need to know about the type of money involved," Lopey said. "This isn't confined to the state. There's a big market outside of California they are supplying."
In Calaveras County, voters in January replaced four of the five supervisors who voted to legalize marijuana. The new majority has vowed to repeal legalization and institute a strict ban. But a formal vote has been delayed several times amid threats of lawsuits from farmers.
"So much of this is a cultural war," said grower Beth Witke. "I'm tired of being demoralized by the ban supporters."
Witke and other farmers argue they create good-paying jobs for young adults who otherwise would leave the county for the San Francisco Bay Area. She is among a handful of growers who operated quietly in Calaveras County for decades, attracted by the region's climate and proximity to the Bay Area.
But the devastating 2015 wildfire helped launch the county's green rush. The fire leveled subdivisions and wooded areas, turning them into attractive farmland. Former homeowners sold their flattened lots to outside growers armed with cash and betting the county would issue permits to grow.
Mark Bolger received the first permit. He said a ban would drive out him and his dozen workers.
"I'm trying to do the right thing," Bolger said. "But the first guy through the door always gets shot."
The sheriff said he's focused on farmers who have never applied for a permit or who have continued to grow despite a rejected application. This year, he has raided about 40 farms and seized close to 30,000 plants.
In late September, deputies raided two farms that share a waterline west of Copperopolis, and removed more than 300 plants.
Three of the four farmers arrested were new arrivals from Minnesota. All four tended to another plot deputies raided in August.
They were cited and released. One of them — Ryu Lee, 22, of Redding — told deputies taking him to jail that he would return regardless of whether a ban was enacted.
"I'll see you next year," Lee said.
SHERIFF SHEA, as recalled by the PD: "His department was marked with greater controversy in later years, including a 1985 botched drug raid where deputies targeted the wrong house for a major marijuana smuggling operation, and a 1987 incident where a deputy used a youth as a human shield to fend off an angry mob. Shea retired after two terms, citing accomplishments such as a countywide narcotics task force and an anti-marijuana program 'that’s the political envy of the state'.”
THAT BOTCHED RAID made Point Arena's Billy Hay a millionaire. Not that the Hay family didn't earn it, what with being bullied, insulted, and physically mistreated for a number of hours until the macho masterminds figured out they were on the wrong property.
A DEPUTY fending off "an angry mob" with "a youth as a human shield" seems to have escaped our eagle-eyed vigilance, but has certainly piqued our interest. We're going to research that one and report back.
CATCH OF THE DAY, November 24, 2017
ROBERT ANDRE, Ukiah. Theft from dependent elder, over $400.
ANTHONY BEWLEY, Potter Valley. Domestic battery, disorderly conduct-alcohol.
CURTIS EVANS, Ukiah. Criminal threats, witness intimidation.
DAVID FREASE, Covelo. Vandalism, paraphernalia, parole violation.
ROBERT GARCIA, Ukiah. Domestic battery, domestic abuse, probation revocation.
GEORGE GREER, Los Angeles/Willits. Parole violation.
JOSHUA GUEVARA, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation.
GUADALUPE GUTIERREZ, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, county parole violation.
THOMAS GUYETTE, Nice/Willits. Vehicle theft.
THEODORE KING, Willits. Under influence, trespassing on business.
JODY MCCOY, Ukiah. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, probation revocation.
MARCO MOON, Fort Bragg. Intimate touching against will of victim, parole violation.
JOSE SAAVEDRA, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
MICHAEL TRENT JR., Ukiah. Under influence, possession of ammo by prohibited person, protective order violation.
JOSEPH WOODEN, Fort Bragg. Battery, elder abuse, failure to appear.
A MODEST PROPOSAL FOR REBUILDING SANTA ROSA
(With Apologies To Jonathan Swift)
by Jonah Raskin
As Sonoma County gets ready to rebuild its burned-out neighborhoods I would like to make a modest proposal: that no regulations whatsoever be imposed on builders, contractors, plumbers, electricians, carpenters and the like. My proposal probably is not as strange as it may sound. After all, Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park neighborhood was previously exempt from state fire regulations. It was not deemed to be in a “very severe” fire risk area and thus it was not covered by mandatory building requirements. Some say that Coffey Park should have been designated a high-risk fire area and that fire-resistant buildings should have been part of the building code. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. Let’s leave that all that to the college professors.
I suggest that Coffey Park not be upgraded to a neighborhood where catastrophic fire is likely. I also suggest that any new construction in Coffey Park not be undertaken to please the wimps who like to scare us with tales of climate change and water scarcity. We live in a democracy and a free market economy and citizens should be allowed to build their dream houses any way they want. That’s at the heart of the California Dream, which is the American Dream writ large.
I know that the needless loss of human life is tragic. Still, Santa Rosa of late had become over-populated. Some thinning out was necessary. The fire did that for us. Its measures were harsh, but sometimes harsh measures are necessary. Moreover, the housing market needed a shot in the arm. The fire that swept across Coffey Park was the shot that it will make it possible to build from the ground-up, no holds barred.
If citizens want three or four story homes, that is their God-given right, and no local or state rules and regulations should deprive them of that right. To allow government agencies to impose their ideas about how to build and where and when and why to build would be to surrender to socialism and we elected Donald Trump to keep socialists like Bernie Sanders out of the White House.
It might not be a bad idea to invite the president, his daughter and son-in-law to come to Santa Rosa to oversee the construction of what we might call a “mini-Manhattan.” But perhaps importing Donald, Jared and Ivanka is unnecessary. After all, we have our own fair-haired boy Darius Anderson. I know that my modest proposal will find friends, allies and supporters all around Sonoma County. It already has them. No less an august personage than Paul Gullixson, my erstwhile colleague, has already come out against regulations in the pages of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. I think that’s what he meant when he said that it is not necessary to have new rules in place for those who want to rebuild. “They have a right to build their homes the way they were and, most likely, the way their insurance company’s insist,” Guillixon wrote.
Hear, hear! Let’s leave it to the insurance companies to decide the way that houses are rebuilt. The insurance companies have my best interests and your best interest in mind when they offer us coverage and collect modest fees for the risks they take. That’s the beauty of the free enterprise system. Let’s not let the environmentalists ruin it for the rest of us. Finally, let me say that the fires that burned down those homes in Coffey Park were not a “catastrophe” as some have called it. Or if it was a “catastrophe” it was a catastrophe with a silver lining. Rebuilding Coffey Park will enable Santa Rosa to get rid of the “undesirables” who have snuck in through the backdoor and who have taken advantage of loopholes that ought to be closed once and for all. Build, baby, build and burn, baby, burn, that’s the way of the world. It always was and always will be.
CLARA AND MICHELE
by Harvey Reading
In late 1970 I met an interesting woman. Let’s call her Clara. She was the first lesbian I had ever met, or at least the first to openly admit it. Simply put, Clara was beautiful, slender and willowy, and reasonably intelligent.
Her partner (those of course were the days before same-sex marriages were legally recognized) was a large woman, not obese, just tall and “big-boned.” The image she projected was striking and pleasing to the eye, as was Clara’s. She was a County Social Worker III for Alameda County, with a degree from San Jose State (“college” then). Though obviously the dominant member of the relationship, she was pleasant and very intelligent. Let’s call her Michele, “With one ell,” as she was fond of reminding people, with some frequency. Both women were in their early 20s.
The two were regular customers at the service station where I worked, from my second quarter (now trimester, maybe now even back to semester) at UC Berkeley, in early 1969, through early 1971. They bought gasoline, oil changes, tuneups, etc. for the single car they shared. It was a fairly late model Volkswagen beetle — red as I recall, a very common mode of transportation, along with Toyota Coronas and Datsun 510s, in the Bay Area at that time. (American cars were horrid monstrosities and gas hogs then — American “compacts” of the time were hardly compact).
One evening, they invited me to supper at the rented house they shared in Oakland. I had a devil of a time finding the place, since I never did really become familiar with much concerning the East bay street systems — let alone San Francisco’s — ever. The house was in a nice Working Class section of town, with well-kept yards. The inside was nicely furnished and clean, even tasteful, whatever that means.
After supper, the three of us were sitting around, talking, drinking wine, and smoking a little “dope.” After a second glass of wine, Clara began talking about her life. As she began, Michele’s posture stiffened noticeably. I never knew for sure what caused her response. Maybe she’d heard the story so many times that it annoyed her, or maybe she knew that much of it was a figment of Clara’s imagination.
As Clara told it, she was an Army brat, daughter of a career man, a Captain whose career had stagnated, though she never offered any details concerning the causes, at least not when talking about him specifically. She had been reared on a variety of military bases around the country, including the south at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
When she reached this part of her story, Michele politely excused herself, pleading an early morning appointment the next day.
Clara continued her narrative with the revelation that her father had been physically and sexually abusive to her from the age of 11. She went into far more detail than can be portrayed here, which led me to believe that she was telling a true story and may also help explain Michele’s exit from the conversation. Her mother, described by Clara as a timid woman, was also physically abused by the fellow and did not interfere. According to Clara, to escape the abuse, she withdrew from high school at 16 and took a number of odd jobs to survive, drifting eventually to Oakland, where she eventually met Michele. It was easy to conclude that Michele was probably the best thing that had ever happened to her.
After that evening I never saw Clara or Michele again. Maybe they felt that seeing me again would be too uncomfortable, given what Clara had told me. But I don’t know. I think of them occasionally and wonder what ever became of them. I doubt I’ll ever know, and that’s all right, too.
ATTENTION WOODEN HEADS
Some hints for men:
“I always felt that I was pursuing shared feelings …” Those are words from Charlie Rose when co-workers’ claims of sexual harassment surfaced. I don’t discount that he may have felt that way, as I have known plenty of clueless men who, if you spit in their face they’d say, “Oh, it must be raining.”
Being hounded every work day by someone you’re not interested in (especially when complaints go unheeded) is the worst, more so if he’s your superior. Here are a few clues that a female co-worker isn’t interested:
— She leaves the room every time you walk in (when possible).
— Every time you ask her to lunch, she declines without giving you the option to go another time.
— When you approach her to make small talk, she tries to disengage by not looking at you, acting busy or just doesn’t participate in the conversation.
— When you casually suggest the two of you get together outside of work sometime, she doesn’t show enthusiasm.
To the men out there, before you make an unwelcome move on a woman, think how your sister, daughter or wife would feel if someone approached them in the same way.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Several years ago I decided to stop listening to NPR. Period. It was probably related to the year that I was driving from VT to South-central PA, on what seemed to be a monthly basis to address issues related to ailing parents. It is a seven-to-eight hour drive and I listened to the radio, books-on-tape, etc. to pass the time. It seemed at least once heading south or the return trip I listened to “Fresh Air” with Terri Gross. And it seemed the show I heard on that trip had to do with some kind of gender-related issue. A new play. A new opera. A new movie. A new novel. A series in a magazine. Yada. Yada. Yada. Enough. Stop it. It almost seemed like Gross was trying to decide if she had a gender-issue. I even heard her interview with Tambor about the show and his new-found celebrity. He is a pig like the rest of them.
THE OLD SONGS
by James Kunstler
What if the fun and games of 2017 are over? The hidden message behind the sexual harassment freak show of recent weeks is that nothing else is sufficiently serious to occupy the nation’s attention. We’re living in the Year of Suspended Reality, stuck in the sideshow and missing the three-ring circus next door in the big tent.
It probably all comes down to money. Money represents the mojo to keep on keeping on, and there is probably nothing more unreal in American life these days than the way we measure our money — literally, what it’s worth, and what everything related to it is worth. So there is nothing more unreal in our national life than the idea that it’s possible to keep on keeping on as we do.
The weeks ahead may be most illuminating on this score. The debt ceiling suspension runs out on December 8, around the same time that the tax reform question will resolve one way or another. The debt ceiling means that the treasury can’t issue any more bonds, bills, or notes. That is, it can’t borrow any more money to pretend the government can keep running. Normally these days (and it’s really very abnormal), the treasury pawns off paper IOUs to the Federal Reserve and the Fed makes digital entries on various account ledgers that purport to be “money.” And, by the way, the Fed is a consortium of private banks not a department of government — which is surely one of a thousand ways that the public is confused and deceived about what condition our condition is in, as the old song goes.
There’s a fair chance that congress may not be able to resolve the debt ceiling deadline. The votes may just not be there. If the deadline comes and goes, the treasury can only use incoming tax revenues to cover its costs, and it won’t be enough. It will have to choose whether it issues paychecks to the roughly 2.7 million US government employees, or pays the vendors that sell things like warplanes to the military, or pay out so-called entitlements like Medicare and SNAP cards, or pay the interest on the previously-issued bonds, debts, and bills that the US has racked up over the years. Believe it or not, making those interest payments is probably the top priority, because failing to do that would shove the nation officially into default for the first time and destroy the country’s credit standing. The full faith and credit in the US dollar would shatter.
And then the fun and games would really cease. The country would discover it doesn’t have its mojo working, as another old song goes. The reality of being truly broke will set in. After all, there are two basic ways of going broke as a nation: you can run out of money; or you can have plenty of money that is worthless. Take your pick.
There is some kind of revolution coming to American life. One way or another, it amounts to a much lower standard of living. The journey there may take the public by surprise, a la Ernest Hemingway’s crack about how a character in one of his stories went broke: slowly, and then all at once. The main question about this journey must be whether it is accompanied by political violence. One would have to think the potential for that is pretty high, given levels of animosity and delusional thinking among the two opposing factions — can we even call them Left and Right anymore? — which may even exceed the ill-feeling of 1861.
The tax reform bill, whether it lives or dies, may only become a laughable footnote to the greater quandary of national insolvency. And, anyway, the proposals so far amount to a hall of mirrors inside a three-card-monte house of horrors that almost nobody really understands. As yet another old song says, this ain’t no Mud Club… this ain’t no foolin’ around. Meanwhile, down in the rococo dining room of Mar a Lago, the Golden Golem of Greatness tweeted yesterday that he was presiding over the greatest stock market ever! Kind of reminds me of the moment that old Joe Kennedy got a stock tip from his shoeshine boy.
(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon Page: https://www.patreon.com/JamesHowardKunstler)
FROM AN OPEN INTERNET, BACK TO THE DARK AGES
by Jonathan Cook
Can anyone still doubt that access to a relatively free and open internet is rapidly coming to an end in the west? In China and other autocratic regimes, leaders have simply bent the internet to their will, censoring content that threatens their rule. But in the “democratic” west, it is being done differently. The state does not have to interfere directly – it outsources its dirty work to corporations.
As soon as next month, the net could become the exclusive plaything of the biggest such corporations, determined to squeeze as much profit as possible out of bandwith. Meanwhile, the tools to help us engage in critical thinking, dissent and social mobilisation will be taken away as “net neutrality” becomes a historical footnote, a teething phase, in the “maturing” of the internet.
In December the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to repeal already compromised regulations that are in place to maintain a semblance of “net neutrality”. Its chairman, Ajit Pai, and the corporations that are internet service providers want to sweep away these rules, just like the banking sector got rid of financial regulations so it could inflate our economies into giant ponzi schemes.
That could serve as the final blow to the left and its ability to make its voice heard in the public square.
It was political leaders – aided by the corporate media – who paved the way to this with their fomenting of a self-serving moral panic about “fake news”. Fake news, they argued, appeared only online, not in the pages of the corporate media – the same media that sold us the myth of WMD in Iraq, and has so effectively preserved a single party system with two faces. The public, it seems, needs to be protected only from bloggers and websites.
The social media giants soon responded. It is becoming ever clearer that Facebook is interfering as a platform for the dissemination of information for progressive activists. It is already shutting down accounts, and limiting their reach. These trends will only accelerate.
Google has changed its algorithms in ways that have ensured the search engine rankings of prominent leftwing sites are falling through the floor. It is becoming harder and harder to find alternative sources of news because they are being actively hidden from view.
Google stepped up that process this week by “deranking” RT and Sputnik, two Russian news sites that provide an important counterweight – even if one skewed in its pro-Russia agenda – to the anti-Russia propaganda spouted by western corporate media. The two sites will be as good as censored on the internet for the vast majority of users.
RT is far from a perfect source of news – no state or corporate media is – but it is a vital voice to have online. It has become a sanctuary for many seeking alternative, and often far more honest, critiques both of western domestic policy and of western interference in far-off lands. It has its own political agenda, of course, but, despite the assumption of many western liberals, it provides a far more accurate picture of the world than the western corporate media on a vast range of issues.
That is for good reason. Western corporate media is there to shore up prejudices that have been inculcated in western audiences over a lifetime – the chief one being that western states rightfully act as well-meaning, if occasionally bumbling, policemen trying to keep order among other, unruly or outright evil states around the globe.
The media and political class can easily tap into these prejudices to persuade us of all sorts of untruths that advance western interests. To take just one example – Iraq. We were told Saddam Hussein had ties to al-Qaeda (he didn’t and could not have had); that Iraq was armed with WMD (it wasn’t, as UN arms inspectors tried to tell us); and that the US and UK wanted to promote democracy in Iraq (but not before they had stolen its oil). There may have been opposition in the west to the invasion of Iraq, but little of it was driven by an appreciation that these elements of the official narrative were all easily verified as lies.
RT and other non-western news sources in English provide a different lens through which we can view such important events, perspectives unclouded by a western patrician agenda.
They and progressive sites are being gradually silenced and blacklisted, herding us back into the arms of the corporate propagandists. Few liberals have been prepared to raise their voices on behalf of RT, forgetting warnings from history, such as Martin Niemoller’s anti-Nazi poem “First they came for the socialists”.
The existing rules of “net neutrality” are already failing progressives and dissidents, as the developments I have outlined above make clear. But without them, things will get even worse. If the changes are approved next month, internet service providers (ISPs), the corporations that plug us into the internet, will also be able to decide what we should see and what will be out of reach.
Much of the debate has focused on the impact of ending the rules on online commercial ventures. That is why Amazon and porn sites like Pornhub have been leading the opposition. But that is overshadowing the more significant threat to progressive sites and already-embattled principles of free speech.
ISPs will be given a much freer hand to determine the content we can can get online. They will be able to slow down the access speeds of sites that are not profitable – which is true for activist sites, by definition. But they may also be empowered to impose Chinese-style censorship, either on their own initiative or under political pressure. The fact that this may be justified on commercial, not political, grounds will offer little succour.
Those committed to finding real news may be able to find workarounds. But this is little consolation. The vast majority of people will use the services they are provided with, and be oblivious to what is no longer available.
If it takes an age to access a website, they will simply click elsewhere. If a Google search shows them only corporately approved results, they will read what is on offer. If their Facebook feed declines to supply them with “non-profitable” or “fake” content, they will be none the wiser. But all of us who care about the future will be the poorer.
(Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.)
IN THE REIGN OF THE EMPEROR NERO, when someone had the bright idea to make slaves wear uniforms, it was rejected on the grounds that this would make clear to the slave population just how numerous they were.
— Mary Beard, A History of Ancient Rome.)
PANCAKE B'FAST WHITESBORO GRANGE SUNDAY
A traditional pancake breakfast will be served at the WHITESBORO GRANGE on Sunday, November 26th. Breakfast includes orange juice, pancakes with maple and homemade berry syrups, ham, eggs your way, and coffee, tea or hot cocoa. The public and visitors are invited to join neighbors and community for a hearty pancake breakfast. Adults $8, ages 6-12 half price, children under 6 eat FREE. Breakfast is served from 8 to 11:30 a.m. Whitesboro Grange is located 1.5 miles east on Navarro Ridge Road. Watch for signs just south of the Albion Bridge
FROM THIS DAY IN HISTORY:
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, a groundbreaking scientific work by British naturalist Charles Darwin, is published in England. Darwin’s theory argued that organisms gradually evolve through a process he called “natural selection.” In natural selection, organisms with genetic variations that suit their environment tend to propagate more descendants than organisms of the same species that lack the variation, thus influencing the overall genetic makeup of the species.
Darwin, who was influenced by the work of French naturalist Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck and the English economist Thomas Mathus, acquired most of the evidence for his theory during a five-year surveying expedition aboard the HMS Beagle in the 1830s. Visiting such diverse places as the Galapagos Islands and New Zealand, Darwin acquired an intimate knowledge of the flora, fauna, and geology of many lands. This information, along with his studies in variation and interbreeding after returning to England, proved invaluable in the development of his theory of organic evolution.
The idea of organic evolution was not new. It had been suggested earlier by, among others, Darwin’s grandfather Erasmus Darwin, a distinguished English scientist, and Lamarck, who in the early 19th century drew the first evolutionary diagram—a ladder leading from one-celled organisms to man. However, it was not until Darwin that science presented a practical explanation for the phenomenon of evolution.
Darwin had formulated his theory of natural selection by 1844, but he was wary to reveal his thesis to the public because it so obviously contradicted the biblical account of creation. In 1858, with Darwin still remaining silent about his findings, the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace independently published a paper that essentially summarized his theory. Darwin and Wallace gave a joint lecture on evolution before the Linnean Society of London in July 1858, and Darwin prepared On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection for publication.
Published on November 24, 1859, Origin of Species sold out immediately. Most scientists quickly embraced the theory that solved so many puzzles of biological science, but orthodox Christians condemned the work as heresy. Controversy over Darwin’s ideas deepened with the publication of The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871), in which he presented evidence of man’s evolution from apes...
ON LINE QUOTE OF THE DAY
The terror of Trump and what Trump personifies is not that he and his followers are the exception. The terror is that they are the rule. The Democratic opposition to him is as — if not more — corrupt and frightful as he is, and the liberal democracy that has paved his way to the White House now stands charged with a moral bankruptcy of historic dimensions. We are left (true to our presence in Munch's labyrinth) hopeless, lightless, trapped, screaming in despair. Munch's exhibition in New York is both a revelation and a warning: Where do we go from here? The world has been viciously colonised to spread "the Enlightenment modernity" to which this Donald Trump is now a crowning achievement. Trump is now doing to the US, what the US and, before it, Europe, have been doing to the world. Americans who did not vote for Trump are aghast at how dare he do to them what Obama had been doing (or Hilary Clinton would have done) to the world.
— Hamid Dabashi
(Fire up the wode, it's a helluva Thorgellen!)
Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio is on tonight, it being Friday, not to mention it's Thorgellen 2017! I have it on good authority that Alex Bosworth will call in tonight. He has been through heck and out the other side yet again (this is five times, now), and I'm looking forward to hearing him tell us all about it, and Woden wept, I wish Alex would stop scaring me like that, but I'm not complaining, because the main point is: he's alive.
If you want to talk about your project on KNYO or read aloud your writing in person, or bring your instrument(s) and fellow instrumentalists and play a song or a short set, or otherwise demonstrate your skills using any piece of equipment you can fit through the front door (or use the Max Forseter-condemned piano that's already inside somehow and can't fit to get out)…
…Make that next week, First Friday, November 1, drop by 325 N. Franklin, Fort Bragg after 9pm and just barge in. Head for the lighted room at the back and get my attention. You're never interrupting me; I'm happy to see you. I have plenty of material to read to fill up the time whether you come or not, so there's no pressure. You can even show up, panic and flee at the last instant without ever saying a word, and that will be good work; next time you'll go a step farther.
But, again, that's next week, because tonight I'm doing the show by live remote from Juanita's apartment, not from KNYO. So.
Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio: Every Friday, 9pm to about 4am on 107.7fm KNYO-LP Fort Bragg, including midnight to 3am 105.1fm KMEC-LP Ukiah*. And also there and anywhere else via http://knyo.org or http://TuneIn.com
Also, p.s., the deadline to email your writing to be read on Memo of the Air is always about 5 or 6pm the night of the show. And it's like 5:30 now. You have a little time yet to get that together for tonight. Just paste it into a reply to this email, make sure it's going to me and not to the whole group (unless that's what you want) and press send.
And/or you can have your very own show on KNYO. Contact Bob Young: email@example.com and express your radiophilic desires. You'll be on the air before you know it. It's easy and fun. And it's your right.