- DNC Debate
- Aerial Firefighting
- Outage Prep
- Dimmick Opening
- Grewal Mystery
- Found Cat
- Best Tattoo
- Busy Bee-Man
- Picnic Raid
- Tail Light
- Brooktrails Water
- Edifice Eyes
- Park Day
- Civilization Over
- Harris Quarry
- Hirschman Sighting
- LakeCo Boondogglers
- Yesterday's Catch
- Mass Meeting
- Small Thoughts
- Trailer Park
- One Better
- Place Packed
- Climate Catastrophe
- Mad Thoughts
- Bad News
- Corporate Democrats
- Middle Age
- Be Appalled
- ICE Contractors
- Bad Dems
DNC debate candidates for June 26:
- Cory Booker: corporatist schill, will sell out on Inauguration Day
- Bill de Blasio: even NYers don’t want him to run, preferring Trump (!)
- Julián Castro: who?
- John Delaney: who?
- Tulsi Gabbard: Commonsencial genuine patriot who will probably be drowned out. Listen for her message.
- Jay Inslee: who?
- Amy Klobuchar: Vanilla, through & through
- Beto O’Rourke: Apologist wokester
- Tim Ryan: who?
- Elizabeth Warren: smart lady, but too much like your mother or hectoring wife to garner much more than average male support
HOW THE AIDS EPIDEMIC CATALYZED THE MEDICAL MARIJUANA MOVEMENT
by Fred Gardner
Dennis Peron is the Rosa Parks of the medical marijuana movement, the one who would not move to the back of the bus. Dennis refused to accept that anybody — any cop or DA or judge — could tell him he didn’t have a right to smoke marijuana. “And the right to smoke it means the right to get it,” he would argue, “which means people have to have the right to grow it and sell it.”
Dennis was a Vietnam vet. During the Tet offensive in February, 1968, he had stacked body bags and come out as a gay man. Back in San Francisco at the start of the '70s he said, “I want to dedicate my life to world peace.” A hippie who meant it all the way. He believed that marijuana was inherently an anti-war drug due to its relaxing effect on the individual and the sharing ritual associated with its use. In the ’70s and ’80s he was busted for selling pot more than a dozen times. During a raid in 1977 an SFPD that shattered his thigh. And after every bust he would resume selling. How the narcs hated him!
Dennis did not fancy being an outlaw, so after the 1977 bust he drafted and collected signatures for an initiative — aptly named ‘W’ — whereby the people of San Francisco instructed their law enforcement officials not to press any marijuana-related charges. It carried, and Mayor George Moscone notified the police that possession of an ounce or less should henceforth be ignored.
As the '80s ended, Dennis's longtime companion Jonathan West was dying of AIDS. “Jonathan was taking many prescribed drugs,” Dennis explained, “and there were severe side effects, from nausea to loss of appetite. Marijuana was the only drug that eased his pain and restored his appetite and gave him some moments of dignity in that last year. And of course I had hundreds of friends with AIDS who relied on marijuana for the same reasons: appetite, relief from nausea, relief from pain, to be able to sleep.”
On the night of January 27, 1990, a squad of SFPD narcotics officers raided the house on 17th Street where Dennis was taking care of Jonathan. This is a mix of his recollections: "The police broke down my door, came storming in and found four ounces of Thai weed in the house… Jonathan was very thin and he had KS [Kaposi’s Sarcoma] lesions on his face. The cops made AIDS jokes and they made a big production of putting on their rubber gloves before tearing up the place. When they saw the picture of me and Harvey [Milk, the supervisor who had been assassinated] they went into a harangue about 'that fag.' They put everyone on the floor including Jonathan — they had him spread-eagled on the floor. Well, that was their undoing, because Jonathan told the district attorney and the narcs that the four ounces was his, for medicinal purposes, because he was going to chemotherapy and it helped him with his nausea and helped him in other ways. That took away their 'marijuana-for-sale' basis against me. They tried to link me to 27 pounds found in another house, but had no proof."
Dennis said he recognized one of the raiders as a former bodyguard for Mayor George Moscone (who had also been assassinated). “I told him, ‘Great job you did protecting George.’"
A vision of the cannabis buyers club came to him later that night, Dennis says, as he was lying on a cement slab at the Mission Station. “The cops were coming by and banging with their nightsticks and yelling, ‘Hey, Peron, we’re gonna get you!’ And I was thinking about Jonathan all alone and without any marijuana. And I was thinking ‘Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place where he could go and be among friends?’ Jonathan had the KS on his face and I was thinking, ‘He wouldn’t be ashamed here.’ And the place in my dream was the buyers club.”
Jonathan West died in September 1990, soon after testifying at Dennis's hearing that the confiscated pot belonged to him. At the end he was down to 90 pounds. “Doesn’t that tell you something?” says Dennis. “He lived to testify at my trial and then he let go of life.”
After Jonathan died, Dennis decided to shift his approach from advocating marijuana legalization to promoting its medical use. In designating his marijuana emporium on Sanchez at Ford Streets a "cannabis buyers club" in the winter of 1990/91, Dennis was tipping his hat to the nearby Healing Alternatives buyers club, which had been established to lower the cost of vitamins, supplements and drugs rumored to slow the progression of the virus (such as AL-721, an Israeli egg-yolk extract that was commercially unavailable in the U.S. and had not been approved by the Food & Drug Administration).
Healing Alternatives was a truly non-profit organization that provided products at wholesale prices not just to HIV-positive men but to thousands of Castro district residents determined to bolster their resistance. At the SFCBC, Dennis provided discounts as needed to AIDS patients, but would not abandon the buy-low, sell-high model he had used for years as a dealer. He saw the club as part of an entourage of caregivers — Healing Alternatives providing vitamins, Project Open Hand providing food, the SFCBC providing marijuana in a setting where it could be used and shared.
Dennis's longtime ally, Tod Mikuriya, MD, wrote an admissions protocol for the SFCBC and interviewed members for a paper, “Cannabis Medicinal Uses at a Buyers Club” that never got published in the medical literature. The historically significant manuscript is part of the Mikuriya collection at the National Library of Medicine, and can be found online here.
While 41 of the 57 patients Mikuriya interviewed were HIV+ (and 16 "presumed HIV-"), his questionnaire documented that cannabis was being used to treat a wide range of other problems, including insomnia, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, arthritis, pain, and alcoholism. His study would provide support for the sentence in Proposition 215 authorizing physicians to approve marijuana use in treating any condition for which it provides relief.
Rick Gerharter of the Bay Area Reporter photographed Mikuriya conducting interviews — with help from Dennis and SFCBC staffer Mary Rathbun (“Brownie Mary”) — in January, 1994.
Response to the AIDS epidemic laid the groundwork for the medical marijuana movement in other ways…
The Compound Q Saga
Today, with protease inhibitors greatly extending the lives of HIV+ people, it is hard to convey the level of morbid fear, desperate hope, and factual confusion (could the virus be transmitted by saliva?) that prevailed in the Castro as the epidemic took its relentless toll. People with AIDS, as individual citizens and in groups such as Project Inform and Act-Up, demanded with increasing urgency that the FDA accelerate research and allow access to unapproved drugs.
The drug that got people's hopes up most dramatically in this period was "Compound Q," a Chinese cucumber extract that researchers at SF General Hospital confirmed could kill the virus in the test tube. In May 1989 a clinical trial led by Paul Volberding, MD, was begun at SFGH. That very month, activists obtained a large quantity of Compound Q from China, where it was used as an abortifacent and to treat uterine cancer. They were in a hurry to conduct a trial that would not require people with AIDS to be treated with a placebo in a control group. The Compound Q saga is largely forgotten — so many of the protagonists are no longer with us — but this being Pride Month, we'll recount it, starting with a report published August 1989 in Synapse,the UCSF weekly. Author Kim Grahl, then a second-year medical student, is now an MD practicing in Chicago.
Meetin' at the Buildin'
In September 1989 Project Inform organized a meeting at the Women's Building in San Francisco to bring the community up to speed on the new compound that people were pinning their hopes on. A standing-room-only crowd "almost all young men, some visibly ill, all intensely interested" filled the large auditorium and its balcony to hear Dr. Larry Waites explain:
"Compound Q, which has been known in its present form in China for about 20 years, had been known in the US for about 2.5 years. The trials at SFGH started this summer and it was estimated that they were going to need 9 to 12 months to complete. This lengthy approval process frustrated patients and physicians. Very frequently Al and Marty and I would be together talking about early intervention and treatment. In March we realized that there were at least hundreds of doses of the drug coming into the Bay Area. We perceived an impending crisis. It was obvious that the phase 1 trial planned at SF General couldn't possibly answer the questions about the safety and efficacy of compound Q in time to either avert or guide community use. Martin asked us if a program could be devised that was faster and yet as safe as the FDA approved trial. The dilemma was: should we wait passively for people to treat themselves. literally in their kitchens, and patch up things when they went wrong, or to take a more active stance and set up a carefully controlled monitoring situation to answer the questions about the safety and efficacy of this drug. The decision seemed obvious then and it seems obvious now that we really had to act.
"The next two months were spent in literature research, consulting Chinese physicians and even Genelabs and Mike McGrath at SFGH to write the protocol. We knew that the Chinese used 1 to 2 vials - 1.2 milligrams per vial - to safely induce abortions. We knew that they used a vial per day for five days to treat cancer. We knew that in the test tube studies, cell death occurred for up to four days after the drug was given. That meant that there would be period of relative immune suppression after the drug was given -because even an infected cell may have some function and may help to fight infection. So if you kill off all those infected cells, you would have a relatively suppressed immune system. We calculated that it would take at least three doses or maybe more to possibly kill all the infected tcells and macrophages. Thus we decided to treat people once a week for three doses, to start at 1.2 milligrams - 17 micrograms per kilo. We decided on very intensive monitoring of patients.
"Our first three patients were our very sickest patients. they'd exhausted all other avenues of treatment. We saw them just about every day. The protocol called for following patients overnight after they got the infusion, seeing patients the day after the infusion, then each week of the first month, then monthly thereafter. We had very extensive lab work consisting of complete blood counts, panels to check liver and kidney function, urnialyses, blood work done weekly, then monthly, as well as checking p24 antigens and antibodies. Cost of lab work alone for first 6 weeks was over $42,000.
"Was this all legal? Our lawyers said yes. We now have 7 lawyers. The FDA does not interfere in the right of patients to obtain medicines from any country for their personal use, nor does it interfere in the doctor patient relationship. Our treatment program differed only in its intensity of monitoring and the lengthy informed consent process, which started three days before the infusion."
VEGETATION FIRE IN WILLITS on Saturday afternoon — Under control, contained Monday afternoon. Two acres.
Kathy Wylie wrote:
On the coast, we are completely powered by the grid - on very long tethers through forested country. The closest power generation plant to Mendocino County (besides solar), is the Geysers. Distribution lines tend to affect local circuits. A PSPS (public Safety Power shutdown) in the Ukiah valley, may not affect the coast as we are fed by circuits from the north and south.
A 60 KV Transmission line feeds Fort Bragg from the North. And a 60 KV feeds Elk; and there’s a 60 KV that feeds Gualala/Sea Ranch. If 2 of these transmission lines are shutdown, the coast is black - roughly 15 thousand customers.
Prepare to be shutdown. Make plans for medicines that need cold storage, your medical needs that are dependent on electricity. Keep your car gassed up and emergency food and water stashes. Keep your devices charged. And be aware that many cell towers do not have extended battery backups so cell communications may fail.
If it doesn’t happen, GREAT!
If it does happen, BE PREPARED.
PG&E outages and non-local fires
If you are in the market for a battery/inverter system to keep you online and/or your battery-powered devices charged during an outage, you may want to consider getting a battery/inverter system like this:
It combines a 1000 Whr Li-ion battery and an inverter that outputs:
Pure sine wave 120V AC (1500W, 3000W surge)
4 USB charging ports (12W max)
12V “cigarette lighter” port (120W max)
You can charge it slowly with a 65W AC adapter and somewhat more quickly (up to 260W) with suitable (21V Max) solar panels.
It’s not perfect, but I’ve found it very handy to power a laptop and Internet modem in order to stay online without running a generator.
List price is pretty steep at $1099, but CostCo frequently has them for $999 and I’ve occasionally seen them for as low as $799. They make similar smaller and larger units, but that’s the only one I have personal experience with.
Rather than jumping on the let’s blame PG&E for fires that started due to trees falling on lines during extreme weather conditions bandwagon do something proactive and positive.
Yes, it’s an inconvenience if/when power is shut down to protect life and property.
There are many things one can do to get through this.
Obviously getting a generator is a good idea, not everyone can afford one, apartment dwellers simply may not be able have one.
Ok, then plan your meals and activities accordingly.
Get a large ice chest, put several bags of ice inside the freezer, the fridge/freezer will keep for a few days if you keep it closed up.
If you’re all electric get a small one or two burner propane stove and a few bottles of fuel.
You can still cook outside, on a porch, etc.
You can still maintain sanitation and wash clothes by hand in cold water.
Keep at least a weeks worth of non perishable foods for yourself and your family.
May not be the tastiest cuisine but you’ll survive.
Neighbors and Friends can also work together and help each other out.
Yes, there are hardship cases such as people using medical devices requiring power, again people can and should be helping family, friends and neighbors.
Personal responsibility and self reliance is key here,
We’ll all get through this!
ON TUESDAY, we asked County CEO Carmel Angelo if Ag Commissioner Harinder Grewal had been placed on administrative leave, which is what we'd heard from a reliable a source in the County Administration. Ms. Angelo replied: “I am referring this to [Human Resources Director] Heidi Dunham. The Ag Commissioner does not report to me. Thank you.”
That was funny, because if Grewal doesn’t report to the CEO, who does he report to?
So we asked Ms. Dunham about it.
Ms Dunham replied, “This is a confidential personnel matter and I cannot discuss it.”
If Mr. Grewal had been formally terminated, we would have been told that he was no longer employed by the County. If it’s “a confidential personnel matter,” then the likelihood is that someone has accused him of something “inappropriate,” and the County Counsel’s office is probably going to pay an expensive outside attorney to conduct “an independent investigation” while Mr. Grewal remains on the County’s payroll until the matter is resolved.
READERS may recall that in May of 2016 Mendo’s Chief Probation Officer Pamela Markham was placed on paid administrative leave for on-the-job boffing. She remained on paid admin leave for months while the investigation proceeded. In that case, since Mendo’s presiding judge was her boss, Mendo County was stuck with her because the judges wouldn’t terminate her. But when Probation Department employees asked official Mendo about the apparent office hours lust their workplace had become infamous for, they were told to contact the presiding judge or Human Resources Director Heidi Dunham "if you have questions or concerns."
ALL INQUIRIES about County employees, especially at the admin level of Mendocino County officialdom, are "personnel matters" or "under investigation." Mendocino County routinely puts highly placed employees on administrative leave with opaque or info-free announcements. Administrative leave with full salary and benefits at taxpayer expense — a typical fate for a fallen, upper level palsy-walsy — typically drags out for months until everyone forgets about it. Then the person who’d been put on administrative leave quietly resigns or retires, usually after being paid off or bought out with a confidential settlement.
AN INVESTIGATION was begun at the same time Markham was put on administrative leave. It was quickly determined that the allegations of in-house “inappropriateness” were credible. But Markham lawyered up, which always makes the judicial types squirm. A lot of money is then spent on outside attorneys while the accused draws full salary and benefits at taxpayer expense, long after any rational investigation would have been concluded.
IN GREWAL’S CASE, we assume that the Assistant Ag Commissioner will become Interim Ag Commissioner and will have to make do without an Assistant.
LOTS OF HIGH-LEVEL STAFF TIME is consumed in County offices like Human Resources, Chief Executive Office, County Counsel and so forth as these allegations are tossed from ditherer to ditherer. Much of this expense is buried in the budgets of “risk management” and the impenetrable murk of the County Counsel’s office. But just the hard costs of paying the Ag Commissioner to sit at home during the investigation will add up to a pretty penny paid out of the Ag Department budget. The taxpayers will never know the true total cost, including any confidential settlement that will probably be negotiated.
THE COUNTY'S SLUGGISH bureaucracy can move quickly when it has to. Some of you will remember Tanya Ugrin-Copabianco, who the Superior Court discovered was keeping close watch on their honors' personal lives and idiosnyncrasies. Tanya got the heave-ho muy pronto. (Tanya! Wherever you are, and assuming you kept a copy, we'd love to see your Mendo diary.)
AS MOST of us know by now, much of Mendocino County's social work obligation has been privatized. The Mental Health Contract is worth about $20 million a year, and includes responsibilities for dependent persons, including children. The franchise is owned by Mr. and Mrs. Schraeder who, near as we can tell, pay themselves somewhere around two hundred thousand a year to administer the helping programs the County of Mendocino gifted them. The Schraeders are a for-profit business with a cover-all-the-bases board of directors consisting of Ukiah law partners Brian Carter and Brian Momson; Nancy Borecky of Selzer Realty: and Donna Wright Gradek of the Savings Bank of Mendocino. But how effective are these privatized programs? No telling because there's no public reporting, although public money funds them.
PATRICK KALFSBEEK, THE HONEYBEE GUY explains why he's late getting his hives to the Anderson Valley: "I am undermanned and late, late, late with everything. I have not a bee in Mendocino County. A sister and I made a sashay through your Valley a couple of weeks ago in response to a landlords summons - the extent of my Mendocino travels, so far, this year."
THIS SATURDAY! Live Music at La Cantina/Lizbby's! The one and only BoonFire!!! Show starts at 9 p.m. No Cover. 21+ Only. (P.S. It's Taco Tuesday. You already knew that because, duh, $2 fish tacos.)
COMPLAINT ABOUT BROOKTRAILS DRINKING WATER
MSP received this message from a reader Tuesday @ 8:13 am:
"Brooktrails water stinks again and taste like pond water. I wish someone would look into it the people are tired of paying high prices for untreated water at the tap - unsure if it's treated but it stinks like pond water and tastes like it too."
Devon Jones, Mendo Farm Bureau stalwart, replied: The water is treated, if it wasn’t they would not be allowed to distribute it. The issue is that the process of eliminating the algae completely from one of the lakes is very difficult and takes time. It’s very similar to keeping the chemicals in your pool at the right levels, the right amount of specific treatments have to be used and continually monitored and adjusted as water flow changes or other external factors on the lake. Making clean, safe water to drink is expensive, but usually we have one of the best ranked water in the state. Exercising a little patience, gratitude, and proactive behavior on all our parts is what our township needs. When there is a problem, notify the water office immediately (even on the weekend) and they will look into it, especially with stinky water because the quicker it is addressed the easier it is to fix. 707-459-2494
STREET ART…'Milla' by Jorge Rodriguez Gerada, Barcelona, Spain, photo by Jorge Rodriguez Gerada
DAY IN THE PARK 2019
On Saturday, July 13 2019, the Fort Bragg Police Department and several local community organizations will be hosting the 2019 Day in the Park event at Bainbridge Park. This event is intended to bring our community’s children and families together for a fun, safe event where they can also learn about the resources and organizations available to them as families within our community.
This event is free and is open to all ages with a focus on children. A free lunch will be served and families are encouraged to come spend the day at the park with your neighbors and friends. As in years past, this event will feature a variety of entertainment and dozens of interactive booths hosted by local organizations. The event will also include a raffle, giveaways, and a cash prize talent show.
This is a rain or shine event, and families are encouraged to dress appropriately and join the fun, regardless of the weather. Organizations who wish to host a booth or activity at the Day in the Park event may contact Sergeant O’Neal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Fort Bragg Police Department partners for the event with the Police Activities League (PAL), Mendocino County Youth Project, Advocates Supporting Coast Kids, Mendocino Coast Association for the Education of Young Children and the Coalition for Gang Awareness and Prevention. We hope to see you that Saturday!
WHAT’S THE RUSH?
RECONSIDER ASPHALT PLANT DECISION
(The following open letter was originally directed to Fourth District Supervisor Dan Gjerde with copies to the remaining supervisors.)
Dear Supervisor Gjerde:
I am directing this open letter to you because you appeared to be the swing vote when the Board of Supervisors agreed at its meeting of June 18, 2019, to retain original jurisdiction of land use matters pertaining to the Harris Quarry on Ridgewood Grade just off U. S. 101. (I also am sending copies to all the other board members and local news media.)
As discussed in detail below, I believe the board took that action after receiving erroneous and unrebutted information from the applicant owners of Harris Quarry. When I stood up at the June 18 meeting and attempted to tell the board that it was being deceived, the chair of the board refused to recognize me.
Accordingly, I now ask that the board reconsider this matter in light of the truth regarding the very significant and complex issues regarding the application to expand Harris Quarry and to build an asphalt production plant onsite.
As you know, the authority for the board to retain such original jurisdiction on land use matters rather than routing them through the planning commission is provided by Sec. 2.54.010 of the Mendocino County Code, which states in pertinent part:
“… the Board of Supervisors hereby deems it appropriate and necessary to reserve to itself the functions of the planning agency when time is of the essence with respect to any permit or approval, based on the project's special contribution to the County's general welfare and economic or environmental well-being, including, but not limited to, projects that provide substantial employment opportunities, support necessary government services, and involve County-wide infrastructure improvements….”
Please note that the first condition to be met before the board has legal authority to take such action is that “time is of the essence,” i.e., that there is some compelling time-related reason to speed up the land-use planning process. To satisfy this essential and primary condition, both the attorney for Harris Quarry and the quarry manager testified that the quarry would be required to shut down, probably in July, when it reached the 75,000 cubic yard annual production limit imposed by its original conditional use permit.
This claim that the quarry’s closure is imminent is patently false; by order of the Mendocino County Superior Court, that 75,000 cubic yard production limit may not be imposed.
As you know, Judge Richard Henderson signed a Peremptory Writ of Mandate on December 21, 2015, concluding a years-long legal battle between the owners of Harris Quarry and a group called Keep the Code. (A copy of the writ is attached to the original of this letter for your convenience.)
The first two paragraphs of the writ are immaterial to the matters now at issue, but Paragraph 3 of the proposed writ presented to Judge Henderson would have required that the county “Prohibit quarrying activities at Harris Quarry in excess of the rate of 75,000 cubic yards per year allowed under Harris Quarry’s previous conditional use permit (#UR 19-83/95).”
However, Judge Henderson struck out this provision before signing the writ, and his actions subsequently were affirmed by the Court of Appeal. By this action, it appears that the quarry is not now being operated pursuant to the previous conditional use permit, at least in terms of the production limit it imposed, but under the terms of the judge’s order, which set no production limit at all.
Accordingly, there is no threat that the quarry will have to be shut down in July or at any other time, and the requirement set out in Sec. 2.54.010 that “time is of the essence” has not been met. Thus the board has no legal justification to bypass normal planning procedures and the considerable expertise of the planning commission.
I ask that you therefore take whatever actions are necessary to place this matter back on the board’s agenda for reconsideration in order to avoid the necessity of my seeking injunctive relief from the courts to rectify this error.
MR. JACK HIRSCHMAN outside the front of City Lights at our #happy60CLB fete! (The "kingdom of books" banner is a new Ferlinghetti sign!)
BETSY CAWN REPORTS FROM LAKE COUNTY:
On the “faux revolution of mindfulness” — The Lake County Behavioral Health Department funneled $230,000 from FEMA’s post-disaster “recovery” funding to the Lake Family Resources’ “CalHOPE” program (https://www.lakefrc.org/programs-services/calhope/) which in turn hired a locally popular mindfulness instructor to coordinate “support groups” for “survivors” of the federally-declared 2017 “Sulphur Fire.” The deployment of poorly trained “facilitators” into the communities impacted by the 2018 Pawnee and Ranch fires (funding from the 2017 disaster not arriving until a year later) to provide a “safe space” in which to learn elementary-school “techniques” for “self-care” — including “self-touching” — resulted in offending the handful of participants who attended three group sessions at the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center, to the degree that the Lake Family Resources “wellness ambassadors” did not return for a fourth attempt.
For those who follow the nuances of County management accountability (?), note that the level of funding would have required putting the “opportunity” out for bid to seek alternative service providers, but the County deemed the selected recipient as the only organization capable of delivering the FEMA-funded, County Behavioral Health Department sub-contracted, boondoggle — similar to the choices for distributing post-disaster “long-term recovery” funding under the direction and tutelage of North Coast Opportunities.
These organizations, players, and pretenders dominate the latest iteration of that money-sucking, hope-selling conglomerate of social remodeling “leaders” — a private/public “partnership” for “improving” Lake County’s dismal and intractable “health ranking” (called “Hope Rising”). We’re paying for that too, through the cost of our Public Health Department’s underwriting of the behavioral change movement peddled by the medical/mental health care promoters, with their bottom lines at stake.
Given that the Lake County Board of Supervisors lost any semblance of mindfulness related to the 2015 Valley Fire’s “long-term recovery” in the wake of subsequent annual catastrophes, the waste of real time, credibility, and yes, a couple of hundred thousand dollars to be offered suggestions of ways to “rethink” our personal losses — but never think about the lack of direction and action to prepare the county-operated public assets (critical and essential facilities) in the face of potentially damaging power losses — you can rest assured that om mani padme hum is the mantra of the day, while these subsidiary milkmaids spend their days hanging out at “people friendly” gathering spots like coffee shops and senior centers (except in Lucerne, of course), or organizing gentle “hikes” in County parks.
$230,000 reminds us, again, that “Laugh and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone.” Oh, and while you’re at it, run right out and buy a generator, willya?
BELA LUGOSI AND DWIGHT FRYE in a scene from the 1931 Universal horror film DRACULA.
CATCH OF THE DAY, JUNE 25, 2019
MIGUEL ESPINOZA-MIRELES, Ukiah. DUI.
SHAWN FAUSTINA, Willits. Battery with serious injury, vandalism.
NECHO FREEMAN, Redwood Valley. DUI-drugs&alcohol, no license.
BRANDON MAXFIELD, Willits. Battery.
MELISSA NIDROS, Ukiah. Domestic battery.
NATHANIEL SIMERSON, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation.
JUSTIN SWINNEY, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
ANTHONY WILLIAMS, Ukiah. Parole violation.
SMALL THOUGHTS AT LARGE
by Herb Caen (June 27, 1967)
A distinguished magazine asked me to write about San Francisco's irresistible attraction for hippies and beatniks. I declined the offer for two middling good reasons. First, in the manner of the most distinguished magazines, the fee offered would not exactly put me on the sunny side of Easy Street; and second, I'm damned if I know why San Francisco has been Mecca for so many round pegs in a largely square world. It's a puzzlement, as I believe Square Old Alice said in her Wonderland days, little knowing that the Mary Janes she wore would become a euphemism for pot.
However, in the interest of research, I put on my eight-button, double-breasted Brioni jacket, tight pants and my fruit boots and went to the drogstore on Haight Street, looking more odd than mod. The pants were so tight I could inhale only, a situation not devoutly to be desired in the drogstore. To the sound of splitting seams, I sat next to an adenoidal young man.
"You new on the scene?" I asked. Examining my duds, he inquired, "You from the fuzz?" "No, man," I replied, "I am a journalist from the overground press, seeking truth." He grunted. "I want to know," I continued, "why you came to San Francisco." "Because this is where it's all happening," he replied. "What is?" I asked. "Everything," he shrugged. "You know. The whole scene."
"Well," I ventured, "would you say you came to San Francisco to protest the sterility of middle-class morality and the Puritan ethic that has been so inimical to the mental well-being of mid-60s America? And if so, do you feel that total alienation is a viable stance vis-a-vis the military-industrial continuum?"
He looked at me for the first time. "You crazy?" He said. "I came out here like everybody else -- to get a girl and to get high." Only he didn't say "get a girl," exactly. I laughed, feeling that perhaps there was less to this story than we had been led to believe.
However, still searching, I consented to participate in a panel discussion. The subject was, naturally, the hippies, and I threw in the question, "But why San Francisco?" The answers were remarkably articulate. "Because this is where the winds of freedom blow." "Because there has been an atmosphere of abandon here since the Gold Rush." "Because this city has always taken the oddball and the alienated to its heart -- the care and feeding of characters is tradition."
And so on, round and round, and where it ended up was nowhere, as usual. Several obvious untruths were spoken such as "the hippies are anti-establishment and so is San Francisco." Actually, San Francisco is very much an establishment city; it makes just as much sense to say that that's why the hippies are flocking here -- the "enemy" is so visible. I also think it's a mistake to look upon the hippies as characters in the sense that Emperor Norton, Oofty-Goofty and even the beatniks were characters. Norton and his ilk were establishment characters, more than willing to play the role of court jester to the condescending lords. Even the beatniks, especially the talented writers and artists, were not averse to the rewards that only the establishment can bestow. The hippies are an entirely different pot of tea.
Except in their music, they couldn't care less about the approval of the straight world. And as for the fond notion that there is something especially alluring about the San Francisco tradition, forget it. Our police are more sensitive and understanding? "Fuzz is fuzz," said one of the hippies.
A hostess at a polite dinner party the other night wailed: "How did this hippie thing happened to our lovely city?" All I could think of was the reply of the Vassar girl found working in a house of prostitution: "Just lucky, I guess."
She killed the light
When she left the room
But I went her one better:
A cross-haired sight
On the waxing moon
We’d watched come up together.
— Erik S. McMahon
CONTROVERSIAL UN ENVOY warns climate change will put democracy at risk, spark racism and see the rich pay to escape his apocalyptic vision of the future while the poor suffer
by Chris Pleasance
The world is sleep-walking into a climate catastrophe that threatens to undermine democracy, impoverish large parts of the world and fuel racism and xenophobia, a UN special rapporteur has warned.
Professor Philip Alston, envoy on extreme poverty and human rights, predicts an apocalyptic future in which hundreds of millions of people are plunged into poverty while the wealthy are able to pay their way out of the problem.
Meanwhile democratic institutions will buckle under the pressure of persuading their citizens to take the increasingly extreme measures needed to avoid the crisis, driving people towards nationalism, xenophobia and racism.
In his report, Professor Alston criticizes his own past work, the work of the UN and world governments in failing to adequately grasp the scope of the crisis or the narrow time-scale for finding a solution.
“States have marched past every scientific warning and threshold, and what was once considered catastrophic warming now seems like a best-case scenario,” he wrote in his report, advanced copies of which were released this week.
Professor Alson has developed a reputation for his grim worldview after he produced a report on how UK government cuts had impacted the unemployed and low-paid.
A summary of his report claimed that Britain has “a harsh and uncaring ethos” and is guilty of “increasing marginalisation of the working poor and those unable to work.”
He said the Department of Work and Pensions appears to be “designing a digital and sanitized version of the 19th Century workhouse, made infamous by Charles Dickens.”
The government hit back, saying the report lacked proper research and was politically biased, prompting Professor Alston to accuse ministers of being in “total denial of a set of uncontested facts.”
In his latest report, which analyzes the effect of climate change on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Alston said the world faces “a climate apartheid.”
He predicts the wealthy — who are largely to blame for climate change — will pay their way out of trouble in the future, leaving the poor and least responsible to suffer.
He also warns that 'climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction.'
Alston's report, which will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council next week, cited previous research that climate change could leave 140 million across the developing world homeless by 2050.
'Perversely, while people in poverty are responsible for just a fraction of global emissions, they will bear the brunt of climate change, and have the least capacity to protect themselves,' Alston said.
'We risk a 'climate apartheid' scenario where the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger and conflict while the rest of the world is left to suffer.'
The expert noted that despite global alarm bells ringing over the threat of climate change, the issue remains a 'marginal concern' within the human rights community.
He specifically criticised the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for not devoting enough attention and resources to the issue.
'As a full-blown crisis that threatens the human rights of vast numbers of people bears down, the usual piecemeal, issue-by-issue human rights methodology is woefully insufficient,' he said.
However, he did note some positive developments in recent years - including the activism of Greta Thunberg and the school protest movement she spawned, the Extinction Rebellion movement in the UK, and a growing number of legal cases in which people are suing states over their use of fossil fuels.
Alston also calls out Trump - one of the few world leaders named in his report - as an obstacle to tackling the problem.
He has placed former lobbyists in oversight roles, adopted industry talking points, presided over an aggressive rollback of environmental regulations, and is actively silencing and obfuscating climate science,' he wrote.
All special rapporteurs are independent experts who do not speak for the UN but report their finding to the world body.
MAD THOUGH IT MOST PROBABLY IS, I pray for the wellness of people I have come no closer to than the printed word, for people locked in cells, for anonymous consumers and checkout operators, for people somersaulting in orbit around the Earth in giant pretzels, for people stressed out struggling with their tiny packaged meals in fragile metal tubes above the clouds, for people lying flat back on their bunk encased in solid iron ugliness under deep dark oceans, for people packed like sardines in sinking refugee ships, for sardine packers and sardines, for those who feel loneliness in crowds and for those who can’t, for those forced to leave us and, in some cases, forced to join us. Strangers all. My world is crammed with strangers, and I too am a stranger – even to myself. I wish, if wishing is what prayer is, that I could more quickly untangle the great big twisted knot that prevents me from being a better human being, that the history of humankind looked better, and that the future held some better hopes for humanity – failing that, any life form, however small.
— Paul Tritschler
THERE ARE NO DEMOCRATIC ADULTS IN THE ROOM
"Only Sanders and perhaps Elizabeth Warren (although to a significantly lesser degree) offer anything resembling a challenge to entrenched power. And that is why they can expect consistent criticism for being “too radical,” “pie-in-the-sky” and “socialist” from a putatively “liberal” establishment that prefers losing to a neofascist right than even a moderately social democratic left. Democrats have doubled down on their 2016 approach, gambling that it will work in the wake of an actual Trump presidency where it couldn’t against a candidate considered an unviable clown (albeit one the Clinton camp actively promoted).
Curiously enough, the Inauthentic Opposition may have ultimately sabotaged itself. Russiagate has provided Democrats with a lethal excuse for their egregious failure to mobilize enough voters to defeat the widely reviled Trump in 2016. It has allowed the reigning corporate wing of the party to pretend to fight Trump while working to marginalize genuine progressive voices like Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, all while keeping the fire burning on a potentially deadly new Cold War between the United States and Russia — a conflict to which top Democrats have long been strongly committed. And in the process, they have diverted attention away from the most critical issues of the day, enhancing the chances of Trump’s re-election.“
OUT THERE, THE ANTELOPE PLAY
Well, dammit, it's true. And the thing that's out there is true because the rest of us are in here, safely this time, and plotting revolution. Truth to tell, we are only playing. And that's the truth.
It turns out that the truth is a faceted crystal with infinite facets. And it, of course, is fun to play with. But we look so seriously intent while we're about it. And what is becoming ever clearer with each passing day is that our ultimate success needs to become more assured with each and every new effort. And there must be an infinity of effort. Eh?
The world we play these amusing games with — and on — is dying. All but dead. Approaching 76 as I am, I am as well an undeniable expert who has, as it were, earned my stripes. As I watch the final fade, I recognize the pattern: look out there. Be appalled. Feel hopeless. Feel beaten. And unaccountably, feel hope. Eh?
BAD BLUES: Some of the House Democrats Who Deserve to Be 'Primaried'
by Norman Solomon, Sam McCann, Pia Gallegos and Jeff Cohen
The following report is by no means exhaustive—only illustrative. There may well be a Democratic member of Congress near you not included here who serves corporate interests more than majority interests, or has simply grown tired or complacent in the never-ending struggles for social, racial and economic justice as well as environmental sanity and peace. Perhaps you live in a district where voters are ready to be inspired by a progressive primary candidate because the Democrat in Congress is not up to the job.
It isn’t easy to defeat a Democratic incumbent in a primary. Typically, the worse the Congress member, the more (corporate) funding they get. While most insurgent primary campaigns will not win, they’re often very worthwhile—helping progressive constituencies to get better organized and to win elections later. And a grassroots primary campaign can put a scare into the Democratic incumbent to pay more attention to voters and less to big donors.
CHERI BUSTOS (IL-17)
Few Democrats in Congress have earned faster or fiercer notoriety among progressives nationwide than Cheri Bustos. Just 10 weeks after becoming chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in early January, she imposed a new policy that blacklists any consultant or vendor who works for a primary challenger against an incumbent House Democrat. Despite withering and ongoing pushback from a wide range of progressive forces, including dozens of chapters of College Democrats and leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Bustos has been immovable. “We are an incumbent-friendly organization,” Bustos told College Democrats of Illinois leaders who challenged her about the DCCC blacklist at their convention in May.
“Incumbents are being protected, even when their policies are out of step with their constituents,” Our Revolution board member James Zogby wrote. “The Democratic Party is hurting itself with this policy, but more importantly, it is hurting millions of Americans who need radical change right now.” Activists warn that the Bustos blacklist policy will actually undermine party growth, jeopardizing rather than protecting the party’s hold on the House. “This isn’t about keeping a majority, it’s not about Democratic priorities, and it’s not about real representation,” said a statement from Justice Democrats. “It’s about powerful insiders protecting powerful insiders against the true will of the people, no matter what the cost.”
Bustos is in her fourth term representing the sprawling 17th District in northwest Illinois—a (slightly altered) district that was represented by the late populist Democrat Lane Evans, one of six co-founders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Bustos, a member of the corporate-allied New Democrat Coalition, is out of sync with large numbers of progressive constituents. After defeating her GOP opponent by more than 20 points in November 2016 (in a district Donald Trump won by less than 1 percent), Bustos went back to Capitol Hill and voted with President Trump more than one-third of the time in 2017-18, according to FiveThirtyEight’s tally. Whether her record at the DCCC and on the House floor will cause her problems with a progressive primary challenger next year remains to be seen.
JIM COOPER (TN-5)
With Nashville as its main population center, the 5th Congressional District is something of a progressive oasis in Tennessee; Hillary Clinton topped Trump there by 18 points. Yet voters have been saddled for more than 16 years with Jim Cooper, an old-style GOP-type deficit hawk who supports austerity economics that hurts the vast majority of his constituents.
Cooper, a longtime leader of the almost-Republican “Blue Dog Democrats” and member of their “Budget Taskforce,” is a staunch proponent of “PAYGO,” a conservative policy designed to stop new federal expenditures unless offset by budget cuts or tax increases. PAYGO undermines Congress’ ability to confront major challenges, from funding a jobs-producing Green New Deal to providing universal healthcare—both of which are broadly popular with voters, especially Democrats. In 2009, when the country was reeling from recession, Cooper was one of just 11 Democrats to vote against the stimulus bill. In 2010, Cooper sponsored the PAYGO bill; he’s the kind of Democrat who helped keep the austerity measure in place this year when Democrats took control of the House.
In 2010, Nashville experienced the sort of disaster that climate change fuels, when the Cumberland River flooded, killing 11 in the Nashville area. Cooper decried the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision not to produce a post-flood report. But for a future safe from ecological catastrophe, government will have to make big infrastructure expenditures, the kind Cooper frowns on. In 2012, Cooper underscored his refusal to spend what it takes to confront warming-intensified disaster when he was the only Democrat to vote against $51 billion in federal relief for areas hit by Hurricane Sandy—leading to a Daily Kos headline: “Democrat Jim Cooper's Vote Against Sandy Relief Shows, Once Again, Why He Needs to Be Primaried."
Cooper is in no way stingy when it comes to limitless war spending; last year, he supported Trump’s record-breaking $717 billion Pentagon budget. Nor is Cooper a cost-cutter when it comes to federal surveillance; in 2013, he was one of three dozen Democrats on The Atlantic’s list of “Exactly Who to Blame in Congress for Authorizing Government Spying."
As far back as the early 1990s, during an earlier 12-year stint in Congress representing a rural district that did not include Nashville, Cooper fought healthcare reform that might impinge on insurance company profits. In turn, the industry heavily backed his failed US Senate bid in 1994; Cooper tried to make light of his donors: “I thought about only accepting money from Mother Teresa -- but then she's in the healthcare business.”
A primary challenger would have little trouble explaining to voters why Cooper should be retired after 30 years in Congress.
JIM COSTA (CA-16)
In 2018, Data for Progress found that 64 percent of Democrats support a Green New Deal, reflecting the view that a massive government commitment to fighting climate change is the only way to save the planet—while providing jobs and economic justice. A Hart research poll pegged support at 83 percent among likely Democratic primary voters. Given these numbers, how can a congressmember in a Democratic district stay in office when plainly doing the bidding of our nation’s largest polluters?
Eight-term Congressman Jim Costa is a fossil from another era. Representing a Latino-majority district in California’s central San Joaquin Valley, Costa has extracted a political career from the pockets of big oil and big agriculture. In 2015, he was one of 28 House Democrats to vote with the GOP to authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. In 2011, he was one of only 19 House Democrats who voted to prohibit the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. He has a lifetime score of just 49 percent from the League of Conservation Voters—the third lowest among all Democrats in the House.
Costa’s decision to side with big business over planetary health makes sense when you glance at his campaign coffers. Last election cycle, agribusiness donated $492,047 to Costa and the energy sector chipped in another $174,055. Together, that represents 36 percent of his contributions. He is a member of both corporate-allied Democratic caucuses in Congress -- the New Democrat Coalition and the Blue Dog Coalition. The right-wing Koch Industries PAC made him one of only four Democrats in Congress to receive its funding in the 2018 cycle.
Costa has also been allied with Saudi Arabia in its horrific war in Yemen. Last year, he was one of just five House Democrats to join with Republicans to pass a farm bill that included a provision preventing Congress from blocking Saudi military assistance. “Jim Costa’s Unconscionable Yemen Votes” was the headline of a Sacramento Bee editorial .
HENRY CUELLAR (TX-28)
Henry Cuellar is in his fifteenth year of representing a south Texas district that’s now two-thirds Hispanic. Yet, mis-representing this thoroughly Democratic district (which went for Clinton over Trump by a margin of 20 percent), Cuellar voted with Trump 68.8 percent of the time in 2017-18 as calculated by FiveThirtyEight—ncluding on bills weakening the Dodd-Frank Act, privatizing veterans’ healthcare and opposing a carbon tax. No Democrat in Congress had a higher vote-with-Trump score than Cuellar; none had a higher ranking in 2018 from the US Chamber of Commerce.
Although nominally a Democrat, he is close to Texas Republicans like former Governor Rick Perry, now Trump’s Secretary of Energy. Cuellar crossed party lines to endorse George W. Bush for president in 2000. He’s one of the rare Democrats to receive Koch Industries PAC funding, including a donation in 2019.
Roughly 25 percent of Cuellar’s constituents live below the poverty line, and Cuellar often votes to make their lives more difficult. In 2015, for example, he was one of only a dozen Democrats who voted with Republicans to eliminate Obamacare coverage for employees who work 30 to 39 hours a week. Last year, he supported a bill that would result in a $3 wage cut for agricultural guest workers, to $8.34 an hour.
On immigration, Cuellar is also out of touch with a district in which 22 percent of residents are foreign-born (almost all from Latin America). In 2014, Cuellar joined Texas GOP Senator John Cornyn in launching a bill to speed up deportation of unaccompanied minors from Central America, allowing border patrol agents to turn away vulnerable children at the border. (Fox News hailed Cuellar for his “hardline talk” and for being “One of Obama’s Biggest Critics on Border Crisis.”) In 2017, he was one of 11 House Democrats who voted with Republicans to allow the government to deport or detain immigrants “suspected” of gang membership, even if never arrested for any crime.
Cuellar has regularly voted to restrict abortion rights. Both NARAL and Planned Parenthood Action Fund rank him among the worst Democrats on women’s reproductive health.
Cuellar has a lifetime environmental ranking of 42 percent from the League of Conservation Voters, the second-lowest among all Democrats in the House.
While Cuellar’s district includes urban areas like Laredo and part of San Antonio, he votes in line with the NRA, which gave him 93 percent ratings in both 2016 and 2018; he also collects checks from the NRA Political Victory Fund, leading to headlines like this: “Meet the Last NRA Democrat.”
Cuellar's vote-like-a-Republican dance is an old routine. What’s new is that he’s facing a progressive primary challenger—immigration lawyer Jessica Cisneros, endorsed by Justice Democrats.
ELIOT ENGEL (NY-16)
For someone in the Democratic leadership, this 16-term Congressman and chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is notable for repeatedly breaking with his own party to support Republican foreign policy positions. In 2003, when most House Democrats refused to authorize an invasion of Iraq, Engel voted for President Bush’s disastrous war. In 2015, he was one of only 25 House Democrats to join Republicans in opposing President Obama’s historic Iran nuclear deal.
Engel’s support for hawkish Republicanism has continued into the Trump era. Engel sided with President-elect Trump’s machinations and against President Obama by castigating Obama for not vetoing a UN resolution (the US abstained) against Israel’s expansion of illegal settlements. He was one of the few House Democrats to applaud Trump’s destabilizing move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem. A defender of strong US-Saudi relations, Engel helped delay a Democratic initiative last year to end US support for the devastating Saudi bombing of Yemen. His ascent to House Foreign Affairs chair was cheered by Republican-aligned hawks, including one who called Obama “a Jew-hating anti-Semite.”
Covering parts of the Bronx and Westchester County, NY-16 is a thoroughly Democratic district where Clinton beat Trump by 75 to 22 percent. The district is now more than 60 percent black, Latino or Asian. It’s 12 percent Jewish, and Engel’s hardline views on Israel (and Iran) are out-of-step with most Jewish Democrats.
Since entering Congress back in 1989 by primarying a Democratic incumbent, Engel hadn’t faced a serious primary challenge himself in two decades. Until now. Two progressives have entered the primary, both highlighting their opposition to Engel’s pro-war record—special education teacher Andom Ghebreghiorgis and middle school principal Jamaal Bowman, who is endorsed by Justice Democrats, a group that was crucial to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 2018 victory.
Congressman Engel has long affiliated with the corporate wing of the party, as part of the New Democrat Coalition and formerly the Democratic Leadership Council. Although liberal on many domestic issues, his militarism and support of ever-higher military budgets subvert the possibilities for an expansive domestic agenda.
Engel, whose district borders that of Ocasio-Cortez, is active in the intraparty battle against progressives who question the foreign policy status quo. When Muslim-American Representative Ilhan Omar challenged the Israel-right-or-wrong lobby, Engel was one of two Democrats who sparked the effort to censure Omar for supposed “anti-Semitism.” A few years earlier, Engel was a featured speaker at a “pro-Israel” rally that also featured infamous right-wing anti-Muslim bigot Pamela Geller. No resolution was proposed to censure Engel.
JOSH GOTTHEIMER (NJ-5)
Very few House Democrats are more eager to align with the GOP than Josh Gottheimer. During his first two years in Congress, he voted with Trump a whopping 55 percent of the time. Gottheimer cochairs the reach-across-the-aisle Problem Solvers Caucus; his official website says he leads the group “to find areas of agreement” for such goals as “lowering taxes” and “cutting burdensome and unnecessary regulation.” Gottheimer’s generous Wall Street patrons are no doubt gratified.
A former precocious speechwriter for President Bill Clinton at age 23, he has won acclaim from corporate leaders for his congressional efforts. Last year, the US Chamber of Commerce gave Gottheimer its “Spirit of Enterprise Award”—which, his office noted, made him “one of only 13 Democrats in the House” to receive the plaudit. Gottheimer quickly returned the compliment, declaring that the anti-union and anti-environmental Chamber “has been a voice for economic growth and a champion for opportunity and prosperity for Americans and businesses of all sizes.”
Gottheimer “has deep ties to the lobbies for Saudi Arabia and Israel,” The Intercept’s Ryan Grim reported in May—and deep hostility toward the two progressive Muslims who became colleagues this year, Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. After meeting with him, Tlaib recalled: “He was using a very stern tone, like a father to a child. At that moment, I realized he’s a bully. He had a goal of breaking me down.”
As the first Palestinian-American in Congress and a strong advocate for the human rights of Palestinian people, Tlaib has been a logical target for Gottheimer, who has few equals as an Israel-can-do-no-wrong lawmaker. Overall, Grim describes him as a centrist “willing to take the fight directly to the squad of freshmen trying to push the party in a progressive direction.”
In 2016, Gottheimer flipped a longtime GOP district in northern New Jersey. Since then—on a range of issues including the US-backed Saudi war on Yemen and predatory banking practices—he has maneuvered to undermine efforts by progressive Democrats in the House. A prodigious big-check fundraiser, he entered this year’s second quarter with almost $5 million in his campaign coffers.
JIM HIMES (CT-4)
“Wall Street’s Favorite Democrat.” That’s how a Bloomberg profile described Jim Himes in 2011, with a subtitle: “Jim Himes works to dial back laws that get in the big banks’ way.” During his decade in Congress, the Connecticut congressman has done much to win Wall Street’s favor.
Himes hails from Goldman Sachs, where he worked in its Latin America division and eventually became a vice president. His ties to finance run deep: in 2008, while the industry pillaged low-income and middle-class homes, bankers made sure to steer funding to their ex-colleague’s congressional campaign. That election cycle, Himes raised $500,000 from the finance sector, including $150,000 from his old cohorts at Goldman Sachs.
That’s proven to be a sound investment. Upon arriving in Washington in 2009, Himes promptly joined the aggressively pro-business, light-regulation New Democrat Coalition, where he served on its “Financial Services Task Force.” Himes remains Chair Emeritus of the NDC.
During the Obama years, Himes worked to undermine the mild regulations that Democrats implemented in the wake of the financial crisis. In 2013, just three years after Congress managed to pass the Dodd-Frank Act, Himes cosponsored legislation to undercut one of its key elements, a provision separating federal insurance from risky swap trades. The Treasury Department opposed the change pushed by Himes and Republican colleagues. The New York Times exposed that two key paragraphs of the bill were literally written by Citigroup, at a time when Himes—then the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s finance chair—received more Citigroup funding than any other member of Congress.
Mercifully, that bill died in the Senate. But Himes had more allies when he took his next big swing at financial regulations in 2018, with Trump in the White House and a Republican-controlled Congress. This time, Himes was one of 33 House Democrats who joined Trump’s GOP in loosening a host of regulations that included “reporting requirements used to counter racial discrimination in lending practices.”
Connecticut’s 4th district—largely middle class in the southwestern corner of the state—is strongly Democratic and unfriendly to Trump collaboration. Clinton won the district by 23 points in 2016. A savvy challenger could spotlight Himes’ subservience to corporate interests and the 29 percent of the time that he voted in line with Trump’s positions in 2017-18.
STENY HOYER (MD-5)
Consummate power broker Steny Hoyer has long served as the number-two Democrat in the House, often using leverage for policy agendas that are unpopular with the party’s base but popular with Wall Street and the military-industrial complex. In late 2002, he was among the minority of House Democrats voting to authorize war on Iraq. In 2008, he angered civil-liberties advocates when he helped draft a “compromise bill” with Republicans that expanded government surveillance power and immunized telecom firms for privacy abuses. (Senator Russ Feingold called it “a capitulation.”) In 2012, he urged a “grand bargain” budget deal that would cut entitlement programs.
Hoyer’s prodigious corporate services haven’t flagged. These days, he’s busy obstructing progressive initiatives from Medicare for All to a Green New Deal. (Only 15 House Democrats have a lower lifetime environmental score from the League of Conservation Voters.)
And Hoyer’s heavy hand extends well beyond Capitol Hill. Last year, as heard on secretly recorded audio, he overtly pressured a progressive candidate to bow out of a Denver-area congressional primary in deference to an opponent anointed by party leaders.
At age 80, Hoyer represents a southern Maryland district that is two-fifths people of color. For nearly four decades, he has routinely coasted to re-election while lavishly funded by corporate interests. Next year he’ll face at least one primary challenger.
Mckayla Wilkes could hardly be more different than Hoyer. She’s young, black, working-class, a single mother, formerly incarcerated—and committed to thoroughly progressive policies. Hoyer “has no idea what everyday District 5 folks face with excruciating commutes, lack of affordable housing, exorbitant healthcare costs and underfunded public schools,” Wilkes told us.
Wilkes faults Hoyer for “not supporting Medicare for All” and “not supporting the Green New Deal”—“we are represented by a climate delayer who refuses to support meaningful action.” She adds: “His contributions alone tell us what we need to know: he privileges the wealthy and corporations over the regular people in his district. His largest donors include defense contractors, pharmaceutical companies and the fossil fuel industry.”
DEREK KILMER (WA-6)
Now representing a Democratic, largely working-class district that includes the Olympic Peninsula and most of Tacoma, 45-year-old Derek Kilmer has been an elected lawmaker for most of his adult life. Currently in his seventh year in Congress after eight years in Washington’s state legislature, Kilmer chairs the corporate-friendly New Democrat Coalition.
Kilmer’s rise in power is appreciated by the US Chamber of Commerce. The anti-union, anti-environment group honored him in April with its annual “Spirit of Enterprise Award,” praising his “pro-growth” policies. The Chamber’s assessment of 2018 voting records ranked only a dozen House Democrats higher. Impressing corporate interests is not new for Kilmer; when in the Washington state senate, he was one of only three Democrats opposing labor on a key bill affecting unions’ ability to support political campaigns.
Kilmer’s increased clout on Capitol Hill means that he has more leverage against the interests of many constituents in a district where the median household income is scarcely $63,000. Meanwhile, the congressman gets plenty of corporate money. During the last term, Kilmer—who sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee—received nearly a quarter of a million dollars combined from the casinos/gambling and securities/investment industries. The military and tech sectors also contributed; Northrop Grumman and Microsoft each chipped in more than $30,000. His campaign and PAC ended last year with more than $3 million cash on hand.
In three races as an incumbent, Congressman Kilmer never finished less than 23 percent ahead of his Republican opponent. He has yet to face a serious challenge from another Democrat. But that might be about to change.
In early June, a progressive city councilman in Bainbridge announced an exploratory committee to run against Kilmer—and lost no time drawing sharp distinctions. “We will not accept any donations from corporate PACs, trade associations or fossil fuel companies,” Democrat Matthew Tirman declared on his website. Tirman’s positions include support for a Green New Deal, Medicare for All and a $15-an-hour national minimum wage, as well as a commitment to “close corporate tax loopholes and ensure that the wealthiest among us pay their fair share.” He told a local newspaper: “We need to define what it means to be a Democrat and what it means to be an establishment, corporate Democrat.”
DAN LIPINSKI (IL-3)
It took a while for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to notice that "Trump is goading us to impeach him," but activists in Illinois’ heavily-Democratic 3rd Congressional District have long known that their Democrat-in-name-only representative, Dan Lipinski, keeps goading us to primary him.
In the 2018 primary, Lipinski narrowly defeated (by 2,145 votes, 51 to 49 percent) liberal challenger Marie Newman. Yet Lipinski remains mostly conservative. In January, he spoke at the anti-choice March for Life in Washington, D.C.; he cochairs the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus. He is the only Democrat in Congress who refused to co-sponsor the Equality Act, the LGBTQ civil rights legislation introduced in March. (After pressure, he voted for the bill.)
A leading member of the “fiscally conservative” Blue Dog Coalition, the eight-term congressman is not generous toward working-class needs (he voted against Obamacare), but he’s lavish in supporting military spending and domestic surveillance. He was one of a few dozen Democrats who voted against the 2010 Dream Act.
The district in southwest Chicago and outlying suburbs is so overwhelmingly Democratic that Republicans hardly contest it (the only person willing to run as a Republican last year was an avowed neo-Nazi). In 2016, Clinton beat Trump in the district 55 to 40 percent, after Bernie Sanders had bested Clinton in the primary by a nine-point margin.
Lipinski was smuggled into his congressional seat by his dad Bill Lipinski, a conservative Democrat (now a DC lobbyist) and 11-term Congress member who won the Democratic primary for a twelfth term in 2004 and then stepped aside after finagling to have his son replace him on the November ballot.
Marie Newman is running again to end the four-decades-long Lipinski dynasty, backed by a solid coalition that includes MoveOn, Democracy for America and pro-choice groups. (Although Newman reportedly supported Sanders in 2016, she endorsed Kirsten Gillibrand for 2020.) One complicating factor is the blacklisting efforts of DCCC chair Cheri Bustos that could undermine Newman’s challenge. Another factor is a second Democrat running as a progressive alternative to Lipinski.
GREGORY MEEKS (NY-5)
After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stunned Queens Democratic machine boss Joe Crowley—who left Congress and became a corporate lobbyist—the machine needed a new boss. So establishment Democrats in the borough turned to 12-term congressman Gregory Meeks, who became the Queens party chair without opposition, backroom-style, at a meeting not publicly announced. Meeks has a long history of serving wealthy interests and his own, not the middle-class and working-class residents of one of the most diverse counties in the nation.
Meeks’ corruption problems are an open secret. The watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has repeatedly chosen Meeks as among the most corrupt inside the Beltway, calling him one of three who “really stand out.” Meeks bought a million-dollar-plus home built for him by a campaign contributor, paying far less than its value. He founded a nonprofit that collected $31,000 in Hurricane Katrina relief but paid out only $1,392. He traveled to the Caribbean at least six times on the dime of a convicted Ponzi schemer (who also donated to Meeks’ campaign).
Meeks serves on the House Financial Services Committee and has received millions over the years in finance-sector donations, including almost half a million dollars during the last cycle. His preference for Wall Street over Main Street has prompted strong denunciations from labor. When the 2007-8 financial crisis hit and devastated homeowners of color, he would not support a moratorium on foreclosures being urged by unions and the NAACP. Meeks has recently taken a lead role in opposing legislation backed by many Democrats, including New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, to tax financial transactions. Unlike most House Democrats, Meeks aggressively supported the corporate-friendly Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
Back in Queens, undeterred by opposition from local activists and officials, Meeks championed the plan to grant tax breaks to Amazon (a trillion-dollar corporation run by perhaps the world’s richest person) to induce its move to Queens in a deal that would have displaced working-class residents.
In a borough that offered grassroots support to the strong insurgent campaigns of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for Congress in 2018 and Tiffany Cabán for Queens District Attorney this year, experienced activists could fuel a challenge to Meeks. A former AOC campaign staffer, Shaniyat Chowdhury, has announced his candidacy.
BRAD SCHNEIDER (IL-10)
“Brad’s been named one of the most bipartisan members of Congress because he’s interested in solving problems,” Schneider’s campaign website declares. A big problem he seems interested in solving is how to impress middle-class constituents without fighting for their economic interests. Instead of backing such proposals as Medicare for All and tuition-free public college, Schneider prefers to talk vaguely about “affordable” healthcare and “affordable” college.
Schneider told the Chicago Sun-Times last fall that “working across the aisle to find common ground . . . has always been a priority for me.” He found common ground with President Trump about one-third of the time in 2017-18, voting with the White House on such matters as chipping away at Dodd-Frank Act regulations on banks, boosting military budgets and reauthorizing warrantless domestic surveillance along with other violations of civil liberties.
As a member of the GOP-friendly Blue Dog Coalition, Schneider signed a letter in June decrying budget deficits and calling on House Democratic leaders to “abide by PAYGO”—the rule requiring that new federal spending be offset by new taxes or budget cuts. His fiscal conservatism doesn’t prevent him from supporting Trump’s engorged military budgets.
Schneider is also a leader of the corporate-centrist New Democrat Coalition, where he cochairs its National Security Task Force—with a decidedly hawkish approach to the Middle East. Very few in Congress are more avid supporters of AIPAC and whatever actions Israel takes. Schneider gained some prominence this spring as the lead sponsor of House Resolution 246, which aims to stigmatize boycotts as anti-Semitic when they target Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights; the free-speech-violating bill gained more than half of the House as cosponsors.
After one House term, Schneider lost his seat representing Chicago’s northern suburbs to a GOP challenger in a close 2014 election. It was a notable loss in a blue district, where Schneider’s “Republican-lite voting record . . . discouraged Democratic base voters” from turning out in that midterm election, says political analyst Howie Klein. (While out of office, Schneider was a vocal opponent of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration.) Schneider regained the seat in 2016 by a 5 percent margin, while Clinton bested Trump in the district by nearly 30 points. Last year, Schneider captured almost two-thirds of the vote against his Republican opponent.
As an incumbent, Schneider has yet to face a primary challenge. Given the contrast between his avowedly “moderate” record and the leanings of many Democrats in his district (where roughly 45 percent voted for Sanders against Clinton), there could be an opening for a progressive in the March 2020 primary.
KURT SCHRADER (OR-5)
Since getting to Congress a decade ago, “moderate” Democrat Kurt Schrader has defeated Republican opponents by comfortable margins that grew to double digits. As for primary challenges, the closest one fell short by more than 40 percent. But 2020 could be quite different. Schrader’s slightly blue district—which includes much of the Willamette Valley and the Oregon coast -- will see a primary contest pitting the incumbent against a self-described progressive with an electoral toehold on the southern outskirts of Portland.
Mark Gamba, now in his fifth year as the mayor of Milwaukee (pop. 20,000), is running to replace Schrader. “He likes to pretend that he’s reaching across the aisle to get things done,” Gamba told us, “but it almost always goes back to the corporations that back him financially.” Schrader, a longtime member of the Blue Dog Coalition, gets a lot of money from corporate interests, including from the Koch Industries PAC. Last year, only one House Democrat was ranked higher on “key issues” by the US Chamber of Commerce. During 2017 and 2018, one-third of Schrader’s House votes were aligned with Trump. And like Trump, he’s not a defender of young Dreamers who have grown up undocumented in this country; he was one of a few dozen House Democrats to oppose the 2010 Dream Act.
Gamba intends to make climate a central issue of the campaign to unseat Schrader—who, he says, “has been notably absent on any substantive climate policy.” A professional photographer who often went on assignment for National Geographic, Gamba advocates for “a Green New Deal or some other powerful response to climate change which is broad-reaching, deep and meaningful.” (Only four House Democrats have a lower lifetime environmental score than Schrader.) Gamba also supports Medicare for All, while his opponent “is quietly but actively opposing Medicare for All or any law that actually cuts into the profits of the pharmaceutical and insurance industries.”
Some of Gamba’s other campaign priorities include “beginning to rectify the vast and growing income inequity by increasing the taxes on the rich including capital gains; protecting the unions which have been slowly and purposefully eroded; beginning to slow the spending on the military-industrial complex; dramatically increase funding for education: pre-K through college.” If all that sounds like a certain political revolution, it’s no coincidence. “I endorsed and campaigned for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary,” Gamba recalls. In that primary, Sanders came out well ahead of Clinton in the district Gamba hopes to represent in Congress.
DAVID SCOTT (GA-13)
After sixteen years as one of the most conservative African-American Democrats in Congress, David Scott is facing a primary fight in a deep blue district that includes southwest Atlanta and neighboring suburbs, where Clinton beat Trump by nearly 3-to-1. The challenge is coming from a former chair of the Democratic Party in populous Cobb County, Michael Owens, who launched his uphill campaign in May while signaling that he’ll make Scott’s big-business entanglements a central issue in the race.
“Owens said Scott, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, has gotten too cozy with the payday lending industry and other corporate interests,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. “He singled out Scott’s vote last year in favor of rolling back portions of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul.” During the last election cycle, Scott’s campaign and PAC raised $318,750 from securities, investment and commercial-banking interests. Just seven Democrats in Congress earned a higher ranking last year from the corporatist US Chamber of Commerce, which placed Scott above almost 100 Republicans.
Seeking to oust the incumbent in a district that is 70 percent people of color, the Owens campaign aims to bring political issues home. Says Owens: “I want to make sure that we stop allowing and supporting policies that are directly attacking our black and brown communities.”
A member of both corporate-allied caucuses of Democrats—the Blue Dog and New Democrat coalitions—Scott is fond of reaching across the aisle, to the point of publicly backing GOP incumbents for re-election. He has sided with Republicans on some key issues. Scott supported the Keystone XL pipeline, and more recently voted against environmental protection on clean water standards, nuclear storage and pesticides pollution. Only 18 Democrats in the House have a lower lifetime environmental score.
Scott’s approach to foreign policy tends to be hawkish. He opposed the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, and last December he was one of just five House Democrats to vote for continuing arms sales to Saudi Arabia and supporting the Saudi war on Yemen.
JUAN VARGAS (CA-51)
Juan Vargas represents an overwhelmingly Latino and Democratic district (where Clinton beat Trump by a 50-point margin) that includes California’s entire US-Mexico border. Since being elected to the House in 2012, he has become known for one pet issue, far from uppermost in the minds of his largely working-class constituents: defending Israel no matter what.
Unlike most Jewish Democrats, who are often willing to question the actions of Israel, Vargas says it’s wrong to do so. (His district is estimated to be less than 1 percent Jewish.) When Congresswoman Ilhan Omar was under attack earlier this year, Vargas—who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee with Omar—injected himself into the controversy by tweeting that “questioning support for US-Israel relationship is unacceptable.”
In January 2017, Vargas criticized President Obama—and sided with President-elect Trump—when the Obama administration refused to veto a UN resolution against Israel’s expansion of illegal settlements. Israeli expansion does not seem to bother him, as evidenced by a bizarre quip made last November to the San Diego Jewish World: “Vargas says he has absolutely no objection if Israel is made to return to its 67 borders—just so long as the people demanding it are talking about the year 67, not the year 1967.” Vargas was quoted: “If you want to go back to 67, that will probably take in Lebanon, parts of Syria, Jordan and some portions of Egypt.”
In 2015, Vargas was one of the 25 House Democrats to join all Republicans in opposing President Obama’s landmark nuclear agreement with Iran; like other pro-Israel hardliners, he remains against the Iran deal in the Trump era. He was one of the few Democrats who repeatedly undermined Obama’s diplomacy by joining Republican efforts to sanction Iran.
Vargas joined with a Republican in early 2015 as lead co-sponsor of a trade bill—drafted by the Israel-right-or-wrong AIPAC lobby—aimed at countering the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. That same year, Vargas tried (unsuccessfully) to stop a lecture at Mt. San Jacinto College by an Israeli critic of Israel, author Miko Peled, sponsored by the campus Amnesty International Club.
Vargas can be liberal on domestic US issues. But while the Congressional Progressive Caucus includes 50 House members of color (half of its total), Vargas instead is in the corporate-allied New Democrat Coalition. Last year, he did not join the dozens of progressives who voted against Trump’s swollen military budget that diverts vital resources from human needs. In the last election cycle, a hefty $337,500—half of his PAC donations—came from the “FIRE” sector (finance, insurance, real estate).
A progressive challenger focused on constituent concerns might thrive in a primary against Vargas.