- Dense Fog
- Jeff Costello
- Power Restored
- Hopland Fire
- Yorkville Benefit
- Shelter Dogs
- Without Power
- Open Arthouse
- Spaghetti Dinner
- Company Arrives
- Falck Withdrawal
- Cheap Twix
- Marie's Exit
- Yesterday's Catch
- Underground Economy
- Own God
- Hyper Unreality
- KZYX Birthday
- Murdered Journalists
- Permanent Coup
- Found Object
DENSE FOG will likely dissipate by mid morning along the coast, and most areas will see mild temperatures and mostly sunny skies today. Cool overnight lows and patchy frost can once again be expected in interior valleys tonight, with more fog along the coast. Mild temperatures and dry conditions are expected through Tuesday, with periods of rain expected from Wednesday through the end of the week. (National Weather Service)
We are saddened to learn that Jeff Costello has died. Jeff had contributed to the AVA almost from its beginnings in the early 1980s. His account of the Redlegs Band, popular in the San Francisco Bay Area beginning in 1970, has become something of a collector's item, if you can find a copy of that special AVA edition written by this multi-talented man. “The Redlegs band began in 1970 at Sausalito, California, in the Waldo Point houseboat scene. The place was described variously as an artists’ colony, a commune, a dangerous anarchy and the lair of pirates, and the Redlegs’ music reflected and gave expression to these aspects of life on the waterfront. Oh yeah, and it was a lot of fun, too.”
Joe Tate writes: Jeff Costello, our beloved Redlegs brother, has died. He gave his all to our music, risked his life to save our community and was the explainer of all that is cynical about life. He was also a fantastic chef, parent and prescient musical arranger.
He played a few weeks with me at the Sausalito Cruising Club when I started Blue Monday back in 2009. He left to spend more time with his family.
PG&E PUBLIC SAFETY POWER SHUTOFF RESTORATION UPDATE
100% Restoration of Power in Mendocino County
The County of Mendocino has been continually monitoring the scope of the Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) event occurring in Mendocino County. On 10-11-2019 at 4:30 PM, PG&E notified Mendocino County that power has been 100% restored for the areas/communities within the scope of the PSPS event.
For further information from PG&E please visit: www.pge.com
For more information, please contact the Executive Office at 707-463-4441.
(County Press Release)
WILDFIRE THAT PROMPTED EVACUATION WARNINGS IN MENDOCINO COUNTY NOW CONTAINED
A brush fire that sparked near Hopland on Thursday evening prompted officials to issue an evacuation warning before firefighters contained the blaze to 1½ acres.
YORKVILLE MARKET! Saturday October 12 – Yorkville Fire Station Appreciation Dinner. BBQ, Salads and Sundaes. A Big Thank you to our First Responders!! Dinner at 5:30 - portion of proceeds to benefit Fire Department.
For more details on these events please contact the Market at (707) 894-9456.
POWERLESS: AIN’T GOT NO ‘LECTRICITY
by Jonah Raskin
When I heard that PG&E was going to turn off power in my part of the world my first response was denial. I thought that if I told myself that, it was no biggie. After all, I’d gone without power when I lived in rural Sonoma County and when powerful storms would knock down wires and poles. I’d not have electricity for a week.
Also in October 2017 I had a forced evacuation from my house because of wildfires. But the other day when I saw that almost everyone around me was preparing for PG&E to exert its power and deprive us little people of our power I decided I’d better prepare.
I was in the town of Sonoma attending a meeting of the Sonoma Valley Cannabis Enthusiasts. Michael Coats, who chaired the meeting, looked around the room, saw the empty seats and said, “I guess we know why so many people haven’t turned out.” Usually the room at HopMonk tavern is packed with cannabis growers and manufacturers who want to make Sonoma Weed known globally. Now the room was about a quarter full.
I left early because I’d invited my friend Neil Miller for dinner and I wanted to get home and make food. My first stop was Friedman’s, the mega hardware store that boasts, “If we don’t have it you don’t need it.” A lot of people needed stuff that wasn’t available. It had already been snapped up and taken home. I wanted a flashlight, but there wasn’t a flashlight in the store. I bought AA batteries for the one tiny flashlight I had. I’d be able to get around in the dark.
Leaving the town of Sonoma took much longer than usual. There is often a lot of traffic and gridlock but there was much more that day. People were driving around and shopping. Everyone was buying shit whether they would actually need it or not. They were buying batteries, extension cords and generators, plus food. There were long lines at check out counters and long lines at gas stations: the kind I remembered from the early 1970s, during that gas crisis. I had half a tank and figured I’d be okay.
In the village of Glen Ellen I stopped at the market and wandered down the aisles wondering what to buy. I settled on a loaf of bread, a hunk of imported English cheese and a bag of ice, one of the last in the store. I paid and drove home, which took me over Sonoma Mountain to Santa Rosa. By then, it was about five p.m.
Neil Miller was supposed to show up at 5:30. I filled a pot for water to boil pasta, took my homemade red sauce from the frig and sauteed greens in olive oil and garlic. Neil arrived right on time, bearing goodies: vanilla ice cream, a head of lettuce from his own garden and a bottle of Chardonnay, which we mostly polished off.
I’ve known Neil for decades. We watch Monday Night Football together at the house of a mutual friend. Over the years I’ve heard many of Neil’s stories. If I had deliberately set out to invite the perfect guest on the eve of a power outage I couldn’t have chosen better. As soon as Neil arrived I began to talk about the outage and the imminent crisis, thinking that if I talked about it I’d ease my own anxiety. It worked.
Neil explained that he had done nothing to prepare for the powerless days ahead, or “Armageddon” as he jokingly it. He added that we would have a “Last Supper” together. It was good to laugh about the situation we could do little if anything to alter. I understood implicitly why Neil wasn’t alarmed. He has traveled to the ends of the Earth, to Tierra del Fuego, for one, and was caught up in military coup d’etat in South America in the 1970s when thousands of people “disappeared.”
On several occasions he was detained by the police and by soldiers and interrogated. He was 23. He remembered that he thought he was “invincible.” When he saw tanks in the streets of one big city and men with machine guns, he didn’t panic, but he decided it was time to go back home. He bought a bus ticket to Brazil and eventually got back to California. His American passport proved to be indispensible.
Over pasta and greens, Neil told more stories about his travels. I suggested to him that he might be described as a “contemporary Henry David Thoreau” who surely would have known how to get through days without electricity. At Walden Pond he’d done quite nicely without electricity. Neil thought for a while and said, “Yes, one could say that I’m a contemporary Thoreau. He’s one of my favorite writers. He has been since college.” Not surprisingly, Neil lives in a cabin he built in the woods, along Salmon Creek near the town of Bodega.
Before he left and while I still had hot running water I washed by hand the dishes, pots and pans and forks, knives and spoons. He also ate ice cream. After he left I filled every container, pitcher, kettle and more with water. Before going to bed I sent out a few last minute emails to friends and famiy. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get online and use my computer in the morning. That was the hardest thing to accept. I knew I would want to write on my computer. I’m writing right now by hand in a notebook.
I slept soundly. I woke at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday October 9. There was no power in my house. My mobile phone was still charged so I made a few calls, including one to a friend who lives in Cotati, ten minutes by car from my house, and who said she had power. I’m at her place now typing up this account, which I originally wrote by hand.
I’ll go home soon. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be powerless. None of the half million or so people who are in the same or a similar situation know either. It’s a bit anxiety producing. On the way to my friend’s house I found a gas station that was open. I filled my car with gas. On the radio I heard Governor Gavin Newsom blast PG&E, and rightly so. The company has made a fortune for its executives and its stockholders and fucked the rest of us. Shouldn’t the public own the utilities?
On October 10th power came back on. I’m back in my house, able to flush the toilet, have hot running water and turn on the lights. What did I learn from the mini crisis? That PG&E is powerful and can do almost anything it wants to do. That doesn’t seem right. I told my brother Adam that Californians often boast that we have the fifth largest economy in the world but that didn’t mean much if the state was without electricity. He said that was irrelevant. I guess I was just venting.
There are a lot of venters out here. I remembered the early 1970s when my parents along with their neighbors were up in arms about PG&E. Nothing happened then. I think there’s more of a chance for something to happen now, if only because many people are angry. So are newspaper editors and politicians. Let’s hope we have some traction.
DON'T MISS THIS ONE
Open Art House / Open Studio - This Weekend in Philo
Off the beaten path, in the middle of a redwood forest, we have built a beautiful off-grid straw bale house, full of our hand made furniture and paintings. Finally finished and open for viewing. Nancy MacLeod and William Allen collaborate on functional and fun "folk art" furniture, mostly cupboards and small tables. Nancy paints colorful and playful acrylic works on canvas, as well.
Our greatest collaboration has been building this wonderful big house, in which we have our studio and home. 15 years in the making, we are celebrating the completion with an Open House and Studio Oct 11-13, 10am-5pm.
We are in the hills above Anderson Valley, 30 min. from Boonville, off Philo-Greenwood Rd, on the way to Elk and the Mendocino coast.
21921 Panorama Way, off Signal Ridge Rd. Follow the signs.
More info at folkartfantasyfurniture.com, or 895-3134
This Saturday, October 12 join the Whiteboro Grange FROM 4-7 P.M. for PASTA WITH A PURPOSE as part of our month long benefit supporting our local volunteer firefighters - the Albion-Little River Fire Protection District.
For only $8 (adults), and $4 (kids 6-12) you'll get all the salad, spaghetti, garlic bread and dessert you can eat PLUS the benefit of knowing your dollars go straight to helping our extraordinary volunteer firefighters purchase the equipment and supplies they need to help keep our community safe!
How much better can it get?
Please help support this important and vital community organization by simply showing up and having a meal. Every little bit helps. These folks volunteer because they care - let's show them some appreciation!
Whitesboro Grange is located at 32510 Navarro Ridge Rd in Albion.
MEMO OF THE WEEK
Notice of Withdrawal - Falck Northern California
Falck Northern California and its subsidiaries have served as an EMS Provider in Mendocino County since 2002. Today, Coastal Valleys EMS Agency received formal notification from Falck that they will be discontinuing services to Mendocino County effective December 1, 2019.
As indicated in their notification, Falck has engaged in a collaborative process with MedStar Ambulance and is actively working with the MedStar team to support transition efforts.
I am scheduling an EMS Provider Group meeting on Monday, October 21, 2019 at 10:00 AM to discuss and assess our system’s immediate needs. Attendance is encouraged.
I will provide a calendar invite with a confirmed meeting location early next week.
I would like to personally thank the Falck Mendocino County team for their dedicated service to the citizens and communities of Mendocino County.
Wishing you all a safe weekend and please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
EMS Coordinator, CVEMSA
MARIE JONES LAST WILL & TESTAMENT
by Rex Gressett
A grim reaper stalks the back rooms of City Hall. Mysterious and lethal, this strange force has unleashed an unprecedented power effectively blowing our small-town complacency straight to hell, striking at the heart of the City Hall administration power structure and marooning the City Council on their own little island of irrationality.
It just took out Development Director Marie Jones.
Marie Jones did not just "quit" — count on it. But count on it neither she nor the city administration nor the City Council is offering any clues to the reason for her firing. In her goodbye kiss-off to the city of Fort Bragg, Ms. Jones explained: “There are many reasons for my departure, but I choose not to dwell on them here.”
Instead, she preferred that “you might be reminded of the dedication, value, and intelligence I brought to the job.” The brief, rather snobbish "dis" to the city was Marie Jones's idea of her official epitaph. Nothing to see here folks.
Could it be that the last will and testament of the (formerly) powerful Development Director was actually the state-mandated Housing Element? To refresh your recollection. The Housing Element is an adjustment of the inland code (zoning code) required by California every five years to ensure city compliance with ever-changing and always complex state regulations mandating better more accessible housing.
It’s a state law. The city can't get out of it.
For one thing, the state feeds us much of our money. Housing regulations are written in Sacramento without concern for, or even knowledge of, conditions on the ground in small cities. It’s a kind of benevolent extortion.
Nobody disagrees in principle that fair and abundant housing is a good idea. Nobody in Sacramento gives a hoot about local problems, conditions or economics. The Development Director was tasked with figuring out a way to keep state money flowing in and state regulators out. Even if there was no rational way to do it.
Did the Development Director paint the city into a fraudulent corner?
Somebody thought so.
The Housing Element is a complex document, but it was nothing compared to a public comment attached to it. That comment ran to 600 pages (frigging War & Peace length).
The comment was not the conventional half-baked outrage of a regular citizen. It looked like it came out of a top NY law firm — 600 pages of finely honed reasoning, graphs, charts, legal arguments and hard data — essentially outed the Housing Element as a fairly crude attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of state regulators and float a fake plan.
In Marie Jones's Housing Element submittal, lots were listed as potential sites for development that called for high-density housing at the bitter end of narrow streets that could not possibly support the traffic — according to yet other state laws. Lots were sited for development that would have required improbable cooperation from the Coastal Commission.
Most damning of all, the housing element submitted by Marie Jones leaned heavily on projected housing on the mill site. Marie has not just been advocating for housing on Mill site, she has been BETTING on it.
In spite of palpable Coastal Commission opposition to the LCP as a whole — and vigorous opposition to the LCP as to a butt-saving development extravaganza — Marie Jones and Fort Bragg Mayor Will Lee (a proponent of anything the administration tells him to do) have staked their respective reputations on the LCP (mill site plan) as a golden goose that lets the city duck the statewide housing requirements.
But the LCP is at most half-completed. It has yet to be approved in any degree by the California Coastal Commission.
The last time the Commission looked at it they flipped its percentage of allowed development acreage on its head in contemptuous outrage. Marie Jones just doubled down and crammed her housing projections into less space. Easy peasy if you can rely on a complicit city council to cover up the cover-up.
Mayor Will Lee, in particular, has gone to lengths in the aftermath of Ms. Jones's precipitate exit from the corridors of power to expose himself as a politically vulnerable partisan of "Pretend Land." We need LCP over-build to promote our economic future rages Mayor Lee.
He did not mention that we need the LCPA to keep the state dollars flowing to a town that is in serious non-compliance with ever more aggressive State housing regulations we have no realistic way of meeting.
As a general rule, the louder they yell the more they have to hide.
In recent weeks, Will Lee has been mighty loud.
CATCH OF THE DAY, OCTOBER 11, 2019
ANTHONY AGUILAR JR., Ukiah. Probation revocation.
NICHOLAS BRITTON, Redwood Valley. Disobeying court order, probation revocation.
KILJAN COCHRAN, Gualala. DUI.
VINCENT GALVAN, Fort Bragg. Rape, false imprisonment, brandishing, resisting. (Frequent flyer.)
ANDREW MAYNARD, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation. (Frequent Flyer)
HANNAH NELSON, Ukiah. Controlled substance for sale, failure to appear, probation revocation.
PATTY PIERCE, Willits. Harboring wanted felon, probation revocation.
JONATHAN YOUNG, Willits. False personation of another, polluting state waters, failure to appear, probation revocation.
PRESS RELEASE FROM THE CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today applauded Governor Gavin Newsom for signing into law Assembly Bill 1296. The legislation, sponsored by Attorney General Becerra and authored by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, will combat the illicit underground economy by permanently establishing the Tax Recovery in the Underground Economy program (TRUE) Task Force with multiagency investigative teams throughout California.
“Here in California, no worker deserves to live in fear of exploitation, no business owner should face unfair competition, and no consumer or taxpayer should shoulder the price for criminal activity in the black market,” said Attorney General Becerra. “This new law provides crucial support to enforce the law, protect our workers and legitimate businesses, and take on the illicit underground economy. ‘Play by the Rules’ is more than just a motto in California.”
“The underground economy hurts everyone: workers who are left without protection, consumers who are sold dangerous or fake products, and the state as we lose tax money,” said Assemblywoman Gonzalez. “This task force is a unique, collaborative approach for law enforcement to breakdown its usual silos and execute wider solutions for targeting the underground economy.”
AB 1296 ensures that there will be multi-agency collaboration among key governmental entities, including the Department of Justice, the Department of Tax and Fee Administration, the Franchise Tax Board, and the Employment Development Department to investigate and prosecute black market crimes. Together these agencies combat wage theft, human trafficking, tax evasion, counterfeiting and other crimes in the underground economy.
According to a University of California at Los Angeles Labor Center report, the state’s underground economy generates between $60 to $140 billion in unreported revenue annually, depriving the state of $8.5 billion in corporate, personal, and sales and use taxes each year. TRUE’s pilot program, established in 2014, allowed agencies in Sacramento and Los Angeles to work together to investigate and prosecute the most outrageous felony-level multijurisdictional underground economic crimes in California. For example, in September 2018, Attorney General Becerra announced the results of a year-long investigation that led to charges against a Bay Area adult residential and child care company for labor exploitation and human trafficking. In October 2018, Attorney General Becerra also announced that the State of California regained lost state revenues from an underground prescription drug business, from an illegal pharmaceutical scheme, and from operators who possessed counterfeit merchandise intended for sale. Since the beginning of the modest pilot program, investigative teams have identified $482 million in unreported gross receipts and $60 million in associated tax loss to the state. Additionally, through its criminal enforcement actions, the pilot program has recovered over $25 million in lost tax revenue, victim restitution, and investigation costs.
FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN GOD, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can't readily accept the God formula, the big answers don't remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command nor faith a dictum. I am my own god. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.
— Charles Bukowski,
IN MEMORIAM: REALITY
by James Kunstler
The Golden Golem of Greatness shifted into mad bull overdrive for Thursday night’s Minneapolis fan rally, cussing and bellowing at the picadors of the Left who have been sticking lances in his neck for three years. Decorum is not Mr. Trump’s strong suit, but then the bull is not sent into the ring to negotiate politely for his life. The narrative of the bullring is certain death. The bull must do what he can within his nature to dispute it.
It’s in Mr. Trump’s nature to act the part of a reality TV star, and, of course, it is the nature of reality TV shows to be unreal. That is perhaps the ruling paradox of life in the USA these days. Saturated in unreality, the spectators (also called “voters”) flounder through a relentless barrage of narratives aimed at confounding them, with the unreal expectation that they can make sense of unreal things. In a place like Minneapolis of an October evening, you can go see the Joker movie or take in the President’s rally — and come away with the same sense of hyper-unreality. We’re no longer the nation we pretend to be and we don’t know it. Jokers are wild and the joke’s on us.
So it goes in these dangerous autumn days of The Fourth Turning. Something’s got to give, and all indications are it will happen where few are looking at the moment: the sideshow of money and banking. When things start slip-sliding away over in that alternative universe, Mr. Trump will be propelled into the role he was cast for in 2016: bag-holder for economic collapse. The global slowdown of productive activity and commerce is undermining a vast network of dubious financial obligations ruled by an overgrowth of loans that will never be paid back. Unlike New York real estate moguls, the whole world can’t just go into bankruptcy court and apply for a fresh start. The “workout” is brutal and produces epoch-defining trauma.
The nation has been too preoccupied with political mud-wrestling to notice that the US debt has gone hockey-stick parabolic, racking up $814 billion just since August. Math majors may see that’s close to a trillion dollars, or 4 percent of the total $22,837 trillion, just in a few months. Zowie! (Hat tip Steve St. Angelo.) Parabolic trends don’t end well. In the meantime, the Federal Reserve, as usual, attempts to “fix” the problems caused by excessive bad faith borrowing with additional excessive bad faith lending in its overnight repo operations and revamped non-QE QE. That’s telling you something about where the dollar is headed: history’s graveyard of dead currencies. The upshot is looking like an inflationary depression for the ages.
That event would kill the shale oil industry, and with it the prospects for continuing the mode of living that Americans consider normal. The shale oil producers will not be able to borrow more money from a crippled banking system to produce a type of oil that that is basically unprofitable to lift out of the ground. That’s when America starts to go medieval lifestyle-wise. The curious feature of this big picture is how the anxieties generated by these looming economic and financial tensions express themselves in politics as a sort of early warning system. The craziness of the Trump era — which is distributed pretty equally between both factions — represents the failure of all involved to cope with the mandates of reality, which really exist despite the illusions of our realty television zeitgeist.
The current impeachment frenzy is heading into a collision with these forces, along with the so-far secretive activities of Attorney General Barr and his deputy Mr. Durham. When that happens, Mr. Trump will not be the only mad bull in the national ring, and the nation will be notably short of toreadors. The whole bullring is liable to get busted up with quite a few fans gored in the ensuing mayhem. As I’ve averred before, don’t be surprised if the 2020 election doesn’t even happen. The institutional damage may be too deep.
History doesn’t like vacuums anymore than nature does, and what we’re facing is a vacuum of authority that the USA has never experienced before. That’s the final consequence of a society in which anything goes and nothing matters. Better check what you believe and who you believe in the days ahead, and recalibrate accordingly. This ain’t no foolin’ around.
(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon Page.)
ROY ROGERS AND DELTA RHYTHM KINGS and at Little Lake Grange in Willits on October 19 for KZYX 30th Birthday!
The KZYX 30th Birthday Party Concert Event at the Little Lake Grange is coming up soon! On Saturday, October 19, these great bands will all perform: Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings, Keystone Revisited featuring Tony Saunders (son of Merle Saunders, frequent musical collaborator with Jerry Garcia), The Real Sarahs, and The Back Porch Project, plus we'll have an Alma Latina Dance Party hosted by KZYX program host DJ Aline. Doors open at noon, with music from 1:00 pm to 11:00 pm. Tickets are $30 in advance, or $35 at the door. Half Day tickets (noon to 5 PM) are just $15. Tickets available at JD Redhouse and Main Street Music in Willits, Mendocino Book Company in Ukiah, and Moon Lady in Laytonville.
Online at kzyx30.brownpapertickets.com. Food and drinks will be available for purchase. Child care provided on a donation basis by Nuestra Alianza.
Member, KZYX Board of Directors
THE PHOTO OF MURDERED JOURNALISTS in Russia was removed from Facebook:
WE’RE IN A PERMANENT COUP
Americans might soon wish they just waited to vote their way out of the Trump era…
I’ve lived through a few coups. They’re insane, random, and terrifying, like watching sports, except your political future depends on the score.
The kickoff begins when a key official decides to buck the executive. From that moment, government becomes a high-speed head-counting exercise. Who’s got the power plant, the airport, the police in the capital? How many department chiefs are answering their phones? Who’s writing tonight’s newscast?
When the KGB in 1991 tried to reassume control of the crumbling Soviet Union by placing Mikhail Gorbachev under arrest and attempting to seize Moscow, logistics ruled. Boris Yeltsin’s crew drove to the Russian White House in ordinary cars, beating KGB coup plotters who were trying to reach the seat of Russian government in armored vehicles. A key moment came when one of Yeltsin’s men, Alexander Rutskoi – who two years later would himself lead a coup against Yeltsin – prevailed upon a Major in a tank unit to defy KGB orders and turn on the “criminals.”
We have long been spared this madness in America. Our head-counting ceremony was Election Day. We did it once every four years.
That’s all over, in the Trump era.
On Thursday, news broke that two businessmen said to have “peddled supposedly explosive information about corruption involving Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden” were arrested at Dulles airport on “campaign finance violations.” The two figures are alleged to be bagmen bearing “dirt” on Democrats, solicited by Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman will be asked to give depositions to impeachment investigators. They’re reportedly going to refuse. Their lawyer John Dowd also says they will “refuse to appear before House Committees investigating President Donald Trump.” Fruman and Parnas meanwhile claim they had real derogatory information about Biden and other politicians, but “the U.S. government had shown little interest in receiving it through official channels.”
For Americans not familiar with the language of the Third World, that’s two contrasting denials of political legitimacy.
The men who are the proxies for Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani in this story are asserting that “official channels” have been corrupted. The forces backing impeachment, meanwhile, are telling us those same defendants are obstructing a lawful impeachment inquiry.
This latest incident, set against the impeachment mania and the reportedly “expanding” Russiagate investigation of U.S. Attorney John Durham, accelerates our timeline to chaos. We are speeding toward a situation when someone in one of these camps refuses to obey a major decree, arrest order, or court decision, at which point Americans will get to experience the joys of their political futures being decided by phone calls to generals and police chiefs.
My discomfort in the last few years, first with Russiagate and now with Ukrainegate and impeachment, stems from the belief that the people pushing hardest for Trump’s early removal are more dangerous than Trump. Many Americans don’t see this because they’re not used to waking up in a country where you’re not sure who the president will be by nightfall. They don’t understand that this predicament is worse than having a bad president.
The Trump presidency is the first to reveal a full-blown schism between the intelligence community and the White House. Senior figures in the CIA, NSA, FBI and other agencies made an open break from their would-be boss before Trump’s inauguration, commencing a public war of leaks that has not stopped.
The first big shot was fired in early January, 2017, via a CNN.com headline, “Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him.” This tale, about the January 7th presentation of former British spy Christopher Steele’s report to then-President-elect Trump, began as follows:
Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.
Four intelligence chiefs in the FBI’s James Comey, the CIA’s John Brennan, the NSA’s Mike Rogers, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, presented an incoming president with a politically disastrous piece of information, in this case a piece of a private opposition research report.
Among other things because the news dropped at the same time Buzzfeed decided to publish the entire “bombshell” Steele dossier, reporters spent that week obsessing not about the mode of the story’s release, but about the “claims.” In particular, audiences were rapt by allegations that Russians were trying to blackmail Trump with evidence of a golden shower party commissioned on a bed once slept upon by Barack Obama himself.
Twitter exploded. No other news story mattered. For the next two years, the “claims” of compromise and a “continuing” Trump-Russian “exchange” hung over the White House like a sword of Damocles.
Few were interested in the motives for making this story public. As it turned out, there were two explanations, one that was made public, and one that only came out later. The public justification as outlined in the CNN piece, was to “make the President-elect aware that such allegations involving him [were] circulating among intelligence agencies.”
However, we know from Comey’s January 7, 2017 memo to deputy Andrew McCabe and FBI General Counsel James Baker there was another explanation. Comey wrote:
I said I wasn’t saying this was true, only that I wanted [Trump] to know both that it had been reported and that the reports were in many hands. I said media like CNN had them and were looking for a news hook. I said it was important that we not give them the excuse to write that the FBI has the material or [redacted] and that we were keeping it very close-hold.
Imagine if a similar situation had taken place in January of 2009, involving president-elect Barack Obama. Picture a meeting between Obama and the heads of the CIA, NSA, and FBI, along with the DIA, in which the newly-elected president is presented with a report complied by, say, Judicial Watch, accusing him of links to al-Qaeda. Imagine further that they tell Obama they are presenting him with this information to make him aware of a blackmail threat, and to reassure him they won’t give news agencies a “hook” to publish the news.
Now imagine if that news came out on Fox days later. Imagine further that within a year, one of the four officials became a paid Fox contributor. Democrats would lose their minds in this set of circumstances.
The country mostly did not lose its mind, however, because the episode did not involve a traditionally presidential figure like Obama, nor was it understood to have been directed at the institution of “the White House” in the abstract.
Instead, it was a story about an infamously corrupt individual, Donald Trump, a pussy-grabbing scammer who bragged about using bankruptcy to escape debt and publicly praised Vladimir Putin. Audiences believed the allegations against this person and saw the intelligence/counterintelligence community as acting patriotically, doing their best to keep us informed about a still-breaking investigation of a rogue president.
But a parallel story was ignored. Leaks from the intelligence community most often pertain to foreign policy. The leak of the January, 2017 “meeting” between the four chiefs and Trump – which without question damaged both the presidency and America’s standing abroad – was an unprecedented act of insubordination.
It was also a bold new foray into domestic politics by intelligence agencies that in recent decades began asserting all sorts of frightening new authority. They were kidnapping foreigners, assassinating by drone, conducting paramilitary operations without congressional notice, building an international archipelago of secret prisons, and engaging in mass warrantless surveillance of Americans. We found out in a court case just last week how extensive the illegal domestic surveillance has been, with the FBI engaging in tens of thousands of warrantless searches involving American emails and phone numbers under the guise of combating foreign subversion.
The agencies’ new trick is inserting themselves into domestic politics using leaks and media pressure. The “intel chiefs” meeting was just the first in a series of similar stories, many following the pattern in which a document was created, passed from department from department, and leaked. A sample:
February 14, 2017: “four current and former officials” tell the New York Times the Trump campaign had “repeated contacts” with Russian intelligence.
March 1, 2017: “Justice Department officials” tell the Washington Post Attorney General Jeff Sessions “spoke twice with Russia’s ambassador” and did not disclose the contacts ahead of his confirmation hearing.
March 18, 2017: “people familiar with the matter” tell the Wall Street Journal that former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn failed to disclose a “contact” with a Russian at Cambridge University, an episode that “came to the notice of U.S. intelligence.”
April 8, 2017, 2017: “law enforcement and other U.S. officials” tell the Washington Post the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge had ruled there was “probable cause” to believe former Trump aide Carter Page was an “agent of a foreign power.”
April 13, 2017: a “source close to UK intelligence” tells Luke Harding at The Guardian that the British analog to the NSA, the GCHQ, passed knowledge of “suspicious interactions” between “figures connected to Trump and “known or suspected Russian agents” to Americans as part of a “routine exchange of information.”
December 17, 2017: “four current and former American and foreign officials” tell the New York Times that during the 2016 campaign, an Australian diplomat named Alexander Downer told “American counterparts” that former Trump aide George Papadopoulos revealed “Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.
April 13, 2018: “two sources familiar with the matter” tell McClatchy that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office has evidence Trump lawyer Michael Cohen was in Prague in 2016, “confirming part of [Steele] dossier.”
November 27, 2018: a “well-placed source” tells Harding at The Guardian that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort met with Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
January 19, 2019: “former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation” tell the New York Times the FBI opened an inquiry into the “explosive implications” of whether or not Donald Trump was working on behalf of the Russians.
To be sure, “people familiar with the matter” leaked a lot of true stories in the last few years, but many were clearly problematic even at the time of release. Moreover, all took place in the context of constant, hounding pressure from media figures, congressional allies like Democrats Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, as well as ex-officials who could make use of their own personal public platforms in addition to being unnamed sources in straight news reports. They used commercial news platforms to argue that Trump had committed treason, needed to be removed from office, and preferably also indictedas soon as possible.
A shocking number of these voices were former intelligence officers who joined Clapper in becoming paid news contributors. Op-ed pages and news networks are packed now with ex-spooks editorializing about stories in which they had personal involvement: Michael Morell, Michael Hayden, Asha Rangappa, and Andrew McCabeamong many others, including especially all four of the original “intel chiefs”: Clapper, Rogers, Comey, and MSNBC headliner John Brennan.
Russiagate birthed a whole brand of politics, a government-in-exile, which prosecuted its case against Trump via a constant stream of “approved” leaks, partisans in congress, and an increasingly unified and thematically consistent set of commercial news outlets.
These mechanisms have been transplanted now onto the Ukrainegate drama. It’s the same people beating the public drums, with the messaging run out of the same congressional committees, through the same Nadlers, Schiffs, and Swalwells. The same news outlets are on full alert.
The sidelined “intel chiefs” are once again playing central roles in making the public case. Comey says “we may now be at a point” where impeachment is necessary. Brennan, with unintentional irony, says the United States is “no longer a democracy.” Clapper says the Ukraine whistleblower complaint is “one of the most credible” he’s seen.
As a reporter covering the 2015–2016 presidential race, I thought Trump’s campaign was disturbing on many levels, but logical as a news story. He succeeded for class reasons, because of flaws in the media business that gifted him mass amounts of coverage, and because he took cunning advantage of long-simmering frustrations in the electorate. He also clearly catered to racist fears, and to the collapse in trust in institutions like the news media, the Fed, corporations, NATO, and, yes, the intelligence services. In enormous numbers, voters rejected everything they had ever been told about who was and was not qualified for higher office.
Trump’s campaign antagonism toward the military and intelligence world was at best a millimeter thick. Like almost everything else he said as a candidate, it was a gimmick, designed to get votes. That he was insincere and full of it and irresponsible, at first at least, when he attacked the “deep state” and the “fake news media,” doesn’t change the reality of what’s happened since. Even paranoiacs have enemies, and even Donald “Deep State” Trump is a legitimately elected president whose ouster is being actively sought by the intelligence community.
Trump stands accused of using the office of the presidency to advance political aims, in particular pressuring Ukraine to investigate potential campaign rival Joe Biden. He’s guilty, but the issue is how guilty, in comparison to his accusers.
Trump, at least insofar as we know, has not used section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor political rivals. He hasn’t deployed human counterintelligence “informants” to follow the likes of Hunter Biden. He hasn’t maneuvered to secure Special Counsel probes of Democrats.
And while Donald Trump conducting foreign policy based on what he sees on Fox and Friends is troubling, it’s not in the same ballpark as CNN, MSNBC, the Washington Post and the New York Times engaging in de facto coverage partnerships with the FBI and CIA to push highly politicized, phony narratives like Russiagate.
Trump’s tinpot Twitter threats and cancellation of White House privileges for dolts like Jim Acosta also don’t begin to compare to the danger posed by Facebook, Google, and Twitter – under pressure from the Senate – organizing with groups like the Atlantic Council to fight “fake news” in the name of preventing the “foment of discord.”
I don’t believe most Americans have thought through what a successful campaign to oust Donald Trump would look like. Most casual news consumers can only think of it in terms of Mike Pence becoming president. The real problem would be the precedent of a de facto intelligence community veto over elections, using the lunatic spookworld brand of politics that has dominated the last three years of anti-Trump agitation.
CIA/FBI-backed impeachment could also be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If Donald Trump thinks he’s going to be jailed upon leaving office, he’ll sooner or later figure out that his only real move is to start acting like the “dictator” MSNBC and CNN keep insisting he is. Why give up the White House and wait to be arrested, when he still has theoretical authority to send Special Forces troops rappelling through the windows of every last Russiagate/Ukrainegate leaker? That would be the endgame in a third world country, and it’s where we’re headed, unless someone calls off this craziness. Welcome to the Permanent Power Struggle.