- Help Marcums
- Pet Pamela
- Courthouse Awards
- Allman Retires
- Ed Notes
- Heather Letters
- Wine Cavers
- Furious George
- Yesterday's Catch
- Russia Investigation
- Happy Ramone
- Janky Stunts
- Educated Once
- FEMA Money
- Gig Economy
- Facebook Man
- Widows Wince
- Ruling-Class Breakdown
- Trashing Bernie
- 2019 Movies
- Found Object
A COLD FRONT will bring showers to northwest California today, along with some high elevation snow. High pressure will return with dry and seasonably cool weather for Monday and Tuesday, followed by some chances for rain later in the week. (NWS)
ANOTHER BOONVILLE HOME DESTROYED BY FIRE
FROM THE AV FIRE DEPARTMENT: At 6:05 Friday morning AV Fire was dispatched to an "unknown type fire" outside of Boonville. As engines were responding, we got the information from ECC/dispatch center that it was reported to be a residence, fully involved. The first-in engine confirmed, and incoming units were assigned to protect nearby structures and cool propane tanks. The cause of the fire is unknown. About an hour and a half into the incident, several AV Fire resources were reassigned to a medical aid in Boonville. Our condolences to the family that lost their home today, and to all the families who have been displaced over the last several weeks.
THE HOME was occupied by Stephanie Barton and Mike Marcum, who were not at home. Stephanie is the friendly clerk at Anderson Valley Market. Mike is a heavy equipment operator associated with David Wallace, on whose property south of Boonville near the CalFire station Stephanie and Mike's home was located. This was the seventh house fire in the Anderson Valley since Thanksgiving.
A GOFUNDME PAGE for the Marcum Family House Fire Relief has been set up at: gofundme.com/f/ymd9af/share
UKIAH SHELTER PET OF THE WEEK
Pamela is a very shy dog, and though she lacks confidence, she loves to get close to you and give you attention and cuddles. Pamela perked up slightly during her evaluation when she met another dog, and plays well with other dogs during off-leash playgroups. Pamela is sure to make great progress and become more confident once she settles in with her new family. This sweet dog is a 3 year old, female Shepherd mix, who currently weighs 66 pounds.
The Ukiah Animal Shelter is located at 298 Plant Road in Ukiah. Visit our website for information about our canine and feline guests, and our services, programs and events: mendoanimalshelter.com. For more information about adoptions please call 707-467-6453. Beginning January 2020, our new hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10-5.
COURTHOUSE YEAR END AWARDS
by Bruce McEwen
Now that Coast prosecutor Tim Stoen has retired, The Eldest Practicing Lawyer in the Criminal Defense arena would have to be Albert Kubanis, a guy on the cusp of 80. Having moved to Ukiah back in the early 1970s, Mr. Kubanis still gets up at five in the morning to play racquetball at his health club before turning out for a day’s work at his office high atop the Marks Building next to the Courthouse. And he routinely blisters the ears of his peers (Al’s the only openly Republican lawyer at the courthouse) with Neoconservative claptrap; he even wears the long-outmoded bowtie, that quintessential hallmark of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, from yesteryear, when Al was young and impressionable and, yes, although it’s an embarrassment for him to admit it, Al was once a liberal – back in the Reagan-Era when the L-word was a veritable scarlet letter. Even in politics, let us remember, it is the recent convert who is the most fervid zealot. Along with his views, Al’s taste in clothes has become classically conservative. He is remarkably well-dressed, which is perhaps easy enough to accomplish, in this age of slovenly fashions. But it is advanced age, not natty suits, nor yet noisome politics that entitles him to this prestigious Eldest Practicing Lawyer in the Criminal Defense Arena Award.
While we’re on the subject of slovenly fashions, let’s dispense with the Longest Trouser Length Award. This one is a matter of intense competition among male lawyers at the courthouse. It used to be thought not only in good taste but also a matter of good sense that the trouser should end at or just above the top of the shoe. Such is no longer the case. The current style is to have the trouser leg cut to such a lavish length that it bunches down around the shoes, obscuring the laces in a muddle of rumpled fabric that builds from mid-calf on down until a yard of it drags through the detritus of filth on the streets and sidewalks. We may attribute some of the popularity of this parody of taste and sense to the sagging fad; that is, the way young guys have of fixing their waistbands well below their waists, prison style, which causes their pant legs to bunch up around their shoes. But whatever the origin of this ridiculous fashion, the Award for this year goes to Sr. Deputy District Attorney Joe Guzman. (Hint: It only costs $25 to get your trousers properly cut and sewn at the local dry cleaners, but you have to undergo the ordeal of having your inside seam measured accurately by a tailor or seamstress.)
The Award for Rhetorical Style goes to Anthony Adams of the Office of the Public Defender, for the third consecutive year. Other lawyers, as they divert themselves with video games on their smartphones, still look up and listen when Mr. Adams addresses the court on behalf of one of his clients. And keep in mind that lawyers are supremely smug wights, with no notion of self-improvement, already perfect in their own estimation, too smart to learn anything new, too independent to take a page out of anyone else’s copybook — all of them, to use a Britishism, too clever by half. But they all pause to listen when Adams speaks. And they listen with ill-hid envy. It would be nice to display a few lines of Mr. Adams’ eloquence for the readership’s admiration, but it’s no use trying to get it down without a transcript. At best, all I ever get in my notepad is a bit of it, even though I’m improving in my note-taking. But the effect is lost if a single word is lost or out of place. And that is the essence of rhetoric, to get every word just right, to build up an harmonious set of principles to precise pitch, and let them spill over (seemingly effortlessly) into a loquacious crescendo. Sadly, rhetoric has gone out of vogue. It is nowadays considered artificial and passé. Those who take this fashionable attitude are ignorant of what the word rhetoric once referred to and how it affects them, manipulates them, even, without their being conscious of it; that is to say, such smarty-pants are dolts and eejits; and they would all do well to sit at Mr. Adams’ capacious knee and study his style.
The Award for Humility & Deference for the Ego of Others goes to the long-suffering Judge Keith Faulder, the only male left on the Mendo Bench, who has become something of a laughingstock among the prosecutors. For one thing, it is rare that anyone of any standing from the DA’s office will show up in time to stand up when Judge Faulder emerges from his chambers and glides up to the bench, as the bailiff intones, “All rise…”. This would be too much to ask, like a senior staff NCO in the military having to salute a shave-tail 2nd Lieutenant. Having to get to your feet for the likes of Judge Faulder – so the reasoning must go (or perhaps it’s a memo from the DA, Faulder’s long-time antagonist) — could only be carried out with a small smile, not to say a smirk, of contempt, or so it seems to this observer. Not only do the senior prosecutors forego this ceremony in favor of another cup of coffee and a purely gratuitous extra doughnut, but they all, most generally, have better places to be even when their cases are called, much later on, for the umpteenth time, and several calls have already gone out, begging the deputy DA in question, to please put in an appearance, so that the corrections officers, already backed up, can return one file of prisoners to the jail and transport another. And yet Judge Faulder, ever the Statue of Patience, deferentially bides his time, cautiously holds his temper, modestly confuses his authority with subservience, demurely characterizes his sublimated fury as frustration and never holds any of these lackadaisical lawyers in contempt – which is clearly what the senior Deputy DAs intend to communicate to His Honor. It has gotten to the point, in fact, where the dignity of the court is in dire peril. All we can say is that if we have to give this award to the same judge next year, then perhaps someone needs to spend his vacations at a military academy learning how to climb the chain of command, instead of far off mountains.
(More to follow…)
SHERIFF ALLMAN'S FINAL DAY ….
Saturday, December 28, 2019, was Sheriff Tom Allman's final day as Mendocino County's elected Sheriff as he heads into what we can only expect to be a very busy life in retirement.
We salute him for his life-long public service, and we already know we will miss his everyday sense of humor, law enforcement creativity, problem-solving, and critical incident management.
When asked to comment Friday afternoon, District Attorney David Eyster reminisced that Sheriff Allman is the fourth elected Mendocino County Sheriff that the DA has worked with during his legal career.
Having started as a prosecutor in Ukiah in October 1984, the DA has worked with the following four elected Sheriffs -- Tim Shea, Jim Tuso, Tony Craver, and Tom Allman.
"I have to say without any hesitation that each of these men served with honor and integrity. They each had their own style but they all were effective at being law enforcement leaders. I have been fortunate to know and work with each and every one of these men," said Eyster.
When asked specifically about Sheriff Allman, DA Eyster smiled and noted that "Tom has been the best law enforcement partner that any DA could ever ask for. He's always there when you need him; moreover, he knows almost every local by first name and he has the personal phone numbers of every big wig in Sacramento and beyond," said Eyster.
"While he has worked above and beyond the call of duty to protect all of us here in Mendocino County, Tom has also been a very effective advocate for Mendocino County and the needs of its citizens at the state and federal level."
"Mark my words," continued Eyster, "Don't think that Allman is going away. We all know that Willits is just up the road and Tom knows his way around Mendocino County like the back of his hand. I expect that he will continue to help local law enforcement be innovative and public safety-focused. Like everything else he has done, it is my bet that Tom is going to also work at redefining the concept of retirement," concluded the DA.
(District Attorney’s Office Press Release)
NICE POSTCARD VIEW of the brand new Dann Creek bridge near Leggett, 1931.
THE RUSSKIES CAN'T FOOL ME! I've read some long magazine pieces describing how the Russians interfered with the 2016 elections, and I still don't get it, although it's obvious the potato-faced tricksters preferred Trump over Hil, probably because they accurately viewed him as more manipulable than Hil, a company gal in her bones certain not to upset traditional ways and means of America's imperial dominance. Trump, as we've seen, has upset the entire spy apparatuses that went after him even before the election results were in, and he's also made his own foreign policy. Jeez, Mr. Boonville Provincial, what do you know? Are you for the Orange Monster? No, I'm not, but I like the way he's upset agencies like the CIA and the FBI and I'm repulsed at how the libs have suddenly elevated these monstrous organizations to the last words in national veracity. Talk about turning historical fact on its head! To repeat, I see Trump as the perfect reflection of our culture at this time, and I see him as hastening the general decay and decline. I see Bernie and maybe Liz as antidotes, but too little too late even if the Money People don't prevent their election. I expect to vote Third Party. Millions of us do.
BUT THE FAKE NEWS the Russians have put out there… Well, is it any more misleading than mass media have always been? Was it Russians who cooked up that Facebook video to make Pelosi look like she was drunk at a press conference? I thought it was funny, but it was also at-a-glance unconvincing because I know that it was so wildly out of character from everything we know about Pelosi that it was obviously false. Still, though, I bet lots of people thought the old girl was on the sauce. But most truth tampering is more subtle than Pelosi-as-drunk but will still fool the easily fooled and won't fool the healthily skeptical. And what else is new?
THE OLD CLICHE is that good speech drives out bad speech, but in the daily deluge who has the time? Why right here in progressive Mendocino County how many forums are genuinely open to back talk? The letters columns of the remaining paper-papers remain open to robust dissent except for the Beacon-Advocate, which has always kept out opinion likely to upset what it apparently views as its easily upset readers. KZYX? Like the Advocate-Beacon, free speech Philo has always lived in fear of… You Name It and, besides, has always been a private little audio club heavy on candy-assed political opinion of the NPR type. (My old buddy, Bobby Bushanksy, even has a regular KZYX hour called, "Politics, A Love Story." I ask you!) I listen to NPR every morning when I'm walking because it's so annoying it makes me move faster. This morning (Saturday), for instance, there was a solid twenty minutes of uber nuzzlebum Scott Simon and some other silly willies reading a children's story! I startled an old boy retrieving his morning newspaper when I suddenly yelled, "Christ spare me!" Fortunately, he had to have seen my ear phones and knew I was reacting to something I'd just heard. In San Anselmo — heavy NPR territory — a sudden shout is instantly all over Neighborhood Watch; a second shout brings the cops. Of course AVA people know that the mawk-minded are typically closet fascists, and you know if Scott Simon and Terry Gross appeared in person In Mendocino County only the outdoor Boonville Fairgrounds could accommodate the crowd.
INSULTING phone message of the week: "This message is from a debt collector." Then this imperious female voice recites a number. Who returns a bill collector's call? The e-mail insults pile up by the hour. Lately they've been heavy on sexual invitations, and I want to fairly scream, "Ladies, please! The fires of spring are long extinguished! The great curse long ago lifted!”
A READER NOTES: "What rankles me is the highly selective quality of the sensitivity. Perceived verbal slights pertaining to race or gender are on hair trigger, but sponsoring mass murder in other countries, undermining their governments, not taking care of our own people…no problem with any that. I'd like to see more outrage at the bigger transgressions, and less at the piddly stuff. Some perspective, please."
ED NOTE: Agreed. It's a sensitive time, and a lot of people don't read well, getting all het up about the wrong things. As the lingually aggrieved multiply, the worst of them seize upon the slightest abstract offense and blow it up to the equivalent of physical murder, of which there is much more than there was before all the linguistic sensitivity. A lot of this hyper-sensitivity is simple bullying by unhappy people who conflate their personal misery with the grander issues of the day, at least that's been my experience.
ON THE OTHER HAND, going from lab to lib, political fascists really are coming in the media windows. Ever hear Don Imus? Or that other idiot, Howard Stern? Both of them were/are painfully unfunny. Ditto for Rush Limbaugh, celebrated by the political right as a great wit. A friend told me that everyone in DC listened to Imus in the morning, meaning the national government thought he was boffo.
A READER WRITES:
I am wondering if you are familiar with Heather Cox Richardson. She is a professor of history at Boston College and writes a newsletter about current politics. She makes extremely salient points about the present situation with little hype. It is well worth the read and a good counterpoint to what Kunstler is spewing out.
BACKSTORY ON A BILLIONAIRE: MAYOR PETE’S FAVORITE WINE-MAKER HASN’T BEEN A GOOD NAPA NEIGHBOR
by Steve Early & Suzanne Gordon
When wealthy Californians pay $2,800 to meet a presidential candidate, they expect to be wined and dined.
But, thanks to a recent debate exchange between Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, future fund-raisers among members of the Democratic Party’s donor class will probably not be held in the nearest wine cave.
Warren made this venue a bit radioactive on December 19 when she denounced Buttigieg for partying with several hundred well-heeled supporters at the Hall Rutherford winery in Napa Valley.
The vineyard owners, Craig and Kathryn Hall, have given $2.4 million to Democratic candidates, party campaign committees, and PACs since the 1980s. But, on this occasion, the disclosure that the Halls served $350 bottles of cabernet sauvignon under a chandelier with 1,500 Swarovski crystals drew the populist wrath of Senator Warren.
“Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States,” Warren declared, a sentiment shared by Bernie Sanders, who later needled Buttigieg, during the same debate, about the 40 or more billionaires and their spouses who have contributed to his campaign.
Amid the resulting negative publicity, Mayor Pete’s own billionaire hosts tried to position themselves as ordinary civic minded Democrats, sympathetic to his positions on climate change, gun safety, and immigration.
“I am just a pawn here,” real estate developer Craig Hall complained to the New York Times. “They are making me out to be something that’s not true. And they picked the wrong pawn. It’s just not fair.”
Wine Cave Defenders?
Rallying to the Halls’ defense were several neighbors in swanky St. Helena, CA, all well versed in the ways of wine caves. One denied that partying in them “connoted something snobbish.” Another noted that such storage places provide cheaper, natural temperature control, thus reducing the industry’s carbon footprint.
“It’s the green way to keep wine and preserve it for aging.” explained Jonathan Ruppert, general manager of Gary’s Wine & Marketplace, a local purveyor of Hall Rutherford wines.
James Conaway, author of the Times best-seller Napa: The Story of an American Eden and, a more recent sequel, Napa at Last Light: America’s Eden in the Age of Calamity, has a very different view of nouveau riche “vintners” and their environmental impact.
In Napa at Last Light, Conaway chronicles the Halls’ relocation to Napa from Texas, where Craig made his real estate fortune and once owned the Dallas Cowboys. In Dallas, the Associated Press has reported, “Craig Hall’s role in the 1980s savings and loan crisis” included making “risky investments” during the savings and loan meltdown” that required a $300 million federal bailout. His lobbying of House Speaker Jim Wright triggered a congressional ethics investigation that drove Wright from office in 1989.
Rebounding from that scandal, Hall arrived in Napa where, according to Conaway, “they quickly became benefactors of charities, the arts, and political causes.” Being big Democratic Party donors during the 1990s helped make Kathryn Hall our ambassador to Austria during Bill Clinton’s scandal-scarred second term.
An Environmental “Hall-O-Caust?”
Since 2008, the Halls have been trying to expand their existing wine making operations in both Napa and Sonoma Counties by creating new vineyards on the Walt Ranch, a 2,300 acre site they purchased for $8 million in the Howell Mountains.
Concerned neighbors and local environmentalists have opposed this project because it would require cutting down 14,000 trees, resulting in hill-side erosion and damage to Napa City’s drinking water supply.
As Conaway reports in his most recent book, critics “fear that houses will soon follow, vineyards having become stalking horses for serial McMansions and more ambitious development.”
The Halls are used to getting their way in wine country, even amid protestors brandishing signs warning their customers about “Chainsaw Wine” and an environmental “Hall-O-Caust.” According to Conaway, one of their earlier winery expansion schemes involved tearing down a nearby trailer court, thereby “eliminating a significant portion of St. Helena’s rare affordable housing.”
Meanwhile, Craig and Kathryn live in a lavish home of their own– located above the Napa Valley resort known as Auberge du Soleil–where their house guests have included Bill and Hillary Clinton.
In 2016, the Halls lawyered up again and used their political clout and bottomless bank account to persuade county supervisors to back their plans for the Walt Ranch. But, as the San Jose Press-Democrat reported three months ago, foes of that project won a partial victory in what is now an 11-year legal battle,
A state appeals court ruled that “county officials did not properly show how preservation of an unspecified swath of woodlands on the site would offset the harm to the climate by the tree removals”—and sent the case back to a trial judge.
Says Aruna Prabhala, a lawyer for the Center for Biological diversity:“We see this as a victory for the Napa forest.”
In a phone interview this week, Conaway described the Halls’ overall environmental record as “appalling.” He warned that they remain committed to cutting “down thousands of oak trees, among them old oaks that are crucial to holding up the hillsides” on one of the largest remaining undeveloped tracts of oak forest, chaparral, and open meadow in the area. According to the author, “Napa Valley doesn’t need to lose whatever hillside it has left just to make another $900 cabernet for a billionaire’s vanity project.”
Conaway believes that the Buttigieg event hosted by the Halls illustrates how ultra-rich Californians cultivate friendly Democrats— as candidates for president or county supervisor. “Their wine cave,” he says, “is a wonderful metaphor for the ways in which these people are divorced from the average American.”
More (including Pelosi, of course, and Gavin Newsom’s admiration of the Halls and their wine cave and their money):
GEORGE IS NO GENT
On Wednesday, December 25, 2019 at 4:55 AM, Deputies from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to a reported disturbance between a male and female in the 900 block of Orr Springs Road in Ukiah. Upon arrival the Deputy contacted a 25-year old female adult and learned of an incident of domestic violence involving George Johnson, 31, of Ukiah.
An argument between Johnson and the female lasted several minutes, and Johnson struck the female in the face causing pain and visible injury. During the investigation Deputies located Johnson and placed him under arrest for Domestic Violence Battery. Johnson was subsequently booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held in lieu of $25,000 bail.
CATCH OF THE DAY, December 28, 2019
AMAURY CONTRERAS NUNEZ, Ukiah. DUI, no license.
TRINIDAD FUENTES-RUIZ, Ukiah. DUI.
CRYSTAL HOAGLIN-PIKE, Ukiah. Disobeying court order, failure to appear.
MIGUEL OROZCO, Gualala. DUI.
ANGELICA PEDROZA, Laytonville. Burglary, domestic abuse.
NICHOLE RAMIREZ, Manchester. Protective order violation.
THOMAS TRUMPER, Fort Bragg. DUI, resisting.
THE RUSSIA INVESTIGATION
Everything Trump Touches Dies — A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever
by lifelong conservative Rick Wilson. Pg. 233.
"Page was an easy mark for Russian intelligence services because he lives in the same world of willful self-deception as Trump. Carter Page, International Business Man of Mystery, jet setting wheeler-dealer, and foreign policy savant was an image shared by only Carter Page, world-class dork and sucker. In the FBI investigation of a Russian intelligence cell that sought to suborn Page in 2013, the contempt in which the SVR agents held Page was clear: "This is intelligence method to cheat, how else to work with foreigners? You promise a favor for a favor. You get the documents from him and tell him to go f-ck himself." Foreign Policy reported, "Based on the FBI complaint, it appears Page never realized his Russian contact worked on behalf of Moscow's intelligence services."
Wow, I'll bet most Americans don't understand that the Russia investigation found so much evidence of criminal conduct by the Trump campaign, that there were 215 charges, 38 indictments and 5 prison sentences so far.
To all the stupid people who refuse to understand why the Democrats (plus True Conservatives) want to remove Trump, how much more evidence do you need? How about the evidence that Trump is a witting Russian asset? Yep. US Intelligence officers think so. Next week, The Plot To Destroy Democracy!
“I ENJOYED MY LIFE when I had nothing…and kinda liked just being happy with me.” – Joey Ramone
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE WEEK
There is no logic at work and no trusted institution so I fear your worst fears have already taken root. Neither party has even the slightest credibility and after 8 Obama years of hope with no change (except for the worst) in medical care, housing, and income for most of us, we don’t really believe a rescue plan is shaping up. It IS important that the people who participated in this travesty be indicted but even if indictments are issued it will turn into a political they’re-prosecuting-us-b/c-they’re-against-us-for-trying-to-stop-Trump and will be spun into this narrative across the media. Just look at the number of people who still believe Trump should be prosecuted for “obstruction of justice” of the Mueller report even though it proved to be a false accusation.
Another reason people are cynical is even though we’re still paying for the 2008 crash, it doesn’t take much investigation to see that crime does indeed pay — especially crime that was legalized under Clinton, Greenspan, Rubin and Summers. A friend of mine’s son was a hedge fund guy who AIG paid $50 million in “insurance” when the stock market crashed. He created no jobs, built no factories, invented absolutely nothing but is still wheeling and dealing in this market and it’s all perfectly legal. Has even one of the Democratic candidates said a word about re-criminalizing all the janky Wall Street stunts?
ONLY SO MUCH….
By seeking reimbursement for the post-wildfire cleanup, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is doing its duty to the taxpayers, who will otherwise pay (“FEMA seeks cut of fire deal,” Dec. 11).
The problem is there is a fixed pot of money to pay the claims. This is no problem if the pot at least equals the entire cost of the fires — the sum of the losses to the victims (including emotional distress), the losses to third parties (insurance carriers, FEMA, etc.) and a reasonable attorney fee. Then, FEMA should be able to be reimbursed without the victims being shorted. If FEMA isn’t reimbursed, and the victims pocket the money, won’t the victims be getting a windfall?
So the solution is just do the math.
But what if the pot isn’t adequate, and paying FEMA would cause the victims and third parties not to be fully reimbursed? Whose fault is that? Not the victims, for sure. Who was it that negotiated the settlement and sold it to the victims? Oh, yes, the victims’ attorneys, who will get millions from this settlement. So if the pot isn’t adequate to fully reimburse everyone, then who in fairness should step up?
WHAT IS WORK?
Employment contracts are by their nature asymmetrical. Although in principle contracts are made between two free and equal parties, when an employee signs one they enter into an unequal relationship. Work can be a source of identity, a prerequisite for social inclusion, and a marker of status and independence; historically, the employment contract has been contrasted with slavery, bondage and other forms of servitude. But workers’ movements have long argued that waged labor in general implies a kind of wage-slavery: it dominates as well as exploits. At the very least, it sets up a hierarchical relationship: having a job means being under the authority of an employer. Struggles for better working conditions – for proper remuneration, trade union representation, protection against discrimination, the right to time off for leisure, parenting or sickness – aim to mitigate the essential inequity of the employment contract and limit the power of the boss.
According to the sociologist Colin Crouch, the gig economy provides a new way of concealing employers’ authority. People who work for such online platforms as Uber, Lyft and Deliveroo are classed not as employees but as self-employed. They are supposedly flexible entrepreneurs, free to choose when they work, how they work and who they work for. In practice, this isn’t the case. Unlike performers in the entertainment industry (which gives the ‘gig’ economy its name), most gig workers don’t work for an array of organizations but depend for their pay on just one or two huge companies. The gig worker doesn’t really have much in common with the ideal of the entrepreneur – there is little room in their jobs for creativity, change or innovation – except that gig workers also take a lot of risks: they have no benefits, holiday or sick pay, and they are vulnerable to the whims of their customers. In many countries, gig workers (or “independent contractors”) have none of the rights that make the asymmetry of the employment contract bearable: no overtime, no breaks, no protection from sexual harassment or overtime or severance pay. They don’t have the right to belong to a union, or to organize one, and they aren’t entitled to the minimum wage. Most aren’t autonomous, independent free agents, or students, part-timers or retirees supplementing their income; rather, they are people who need to do gig work simply to get by.
What is new about the gig economy isn’t that it gives workers flexibility and independence, but that it gives employers something they have otherwise found difficult to attain: workers who are not, technically, their employees but who are nonetheless subject to their discipline and subordinate to their authority. The dystopian promise of the gig economy is that it will create an army of precarious workers for whose welfare employers take no responsibility. Its emergence has been welcomed by neoliberal thinkers, policymakers and firms who see it as progress in their efforts to transform the way work is organized.
“Standard employment” is the formal name given to a non-temporary, full-time job secured by a contract. Today, the share of “non-standard employment” in the labor market is growing. There are many kinds of non-standard and informal work, from self-employment to the unstable, unregulated and illegal work of the shadow economy. It takes different forms in different countries. In Europ, on-call contracts (whereby workers are on standby and can be called in to work at any time, even for short stints) and zero-hours contracts (whereby employers aren’t obliged to guarantee even a minimum number of working hours) are popular: an estimated 900,000 people worked under such arrangements in England in 2017. Across Europe there has been an increase in “marginal jobs” and in the use of contracts that expire before workers acquire full rights, like Germany’s “minijobs” and “midijobs” (which provide short hours and low pay, but are enough to disqualify workers from claiming unemployment benefits). At the same time, in advanced economies, the rights of “standard employees” have been steadily eroded. Insecurity is the general condition of modern work.
— Katrina Forrester
A HIGH-TONED OLD CHRISTIAN WOMAN
by Wallace Stevens
Poetry is the supreme fiction, madame.
Take the moral law and make a nave of it
And from the nave build haunted heaven. Thus,
The conscience is converted into palms,
Like windy citherns hankering for hymns.
We agree in principle. That's clear. But take
The opposing law and make a peristyle,
And from the peristyle project a masque
Beyond the planets. Thus, our bawdiness,
Unpurged by epitaph, indulged at last,
Is equally converted into palms,
Squiggling like saxophones. And palm for palm,
Madame, we are where we began. Allow,
Therefore, that in the planetary scene
Your disaffected flagellants, well-stuffed,
Smacking their muzzy bellies in parade,
Proud of such novelties of the sublime,
Such tink and tank and tunk-a-tunk-tunk,
May, merely may, madame, whip from themselves
A jovial hullabaloo among the spheres.
This will make widows wince. But fictive things
Wink as they will. Wink most when widows wince.
THE IMPENDING RULING CLASS MENTAL BREAKDOWN AND RIOT
The outcome of the early primaries may erase Joe Biden’s “electability” luster and plunge the Lords of Capital into a panic in which all bets are off on what’s left of democratic liberties.
GET READY FOR A STOP-BERNIE ONSLAUGHT LIKE YOU’VE NEVER SEEN
by Norman Solomon
A central premise of conventional media wisdom has collapsed. On Thursday, both the New York Times and Politico published major articles reporting that Bernie Sanders really could win the Democratic presidential nomination. Such acknowledgments will add to the momentum of the Bernie 2020 campaign as the new year begins -- but they foreshadow a massive escalation of anti-Sanders misinformation and invective.
Throughout 2019, corporate media routinely asserted that the Sanders campaign had little chance of winning the nomination. As is so often the case, journalists were echoing each other more than paying attention to grassroots realities. But now, polling numbers and other indicators on the ground are finally sparking very different headlines from the media establishment.
From the Times: “Why Bernie Sanders Is Tough to Beat.” From Politico: “Democratic Insiders: Bernie Could Win the Nomination.”
Those stories, and others likely to follow in copycat news outlets, will heighten the energies of Sanders supporters and draw in many wavering voters. But the shift in media narratives about the Bernie campaign’s chances will surely boost the decibels of alarm bells in elite circles where dousing the fires of progressive populism is a top priority.
For corporate Democrats and their profuse media allies, the approach of disparaging and minimizing Bernie Sanders in 2019 didn’t work. In 2020, the next step will be to trash him with a vast array of full-bore attacks.
Along the way, the corporate media will occasionally give voice to some Sanders defenders and supporters. A few establishment Democrats will decide to make nice with him early in the year. But the overwhelming bulk of Sanders media coverage -- synced up with the likes of such prominent corporate flunkies as Rahm Emanuel and Neera Tanden as well as Wall Street Democrats accustomed to ruling the roost in the party -- will range from condescending to savage.
When the Bernie campaign wasn’t being ignored by corporate media during 2019, innuendos and mud often flew in his direction. But we ain’t seen nothing yet.
With so much at stake -- including the presidency and the top leadership of the Democratic Party -- no holds will be barred. For the forces of corporate greed and the military-industrial complex, it’ll be all-out propaganda war on the Bernie campaign.
While reasons for pessimism are abundant, so are ample reasons to understand that a Sanders presidency is a real possibility. The last places we should look for political realism are corporate media outlets that distort options and encourage passivity.
Bernie is fond of quoting a statement from Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it is done.”
From the grassroots, as 2020 gets underway, the solution should be clear: All left hands on deck.
(Norman Solomon is cofounder and national coordinator of RootsAction.org. He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 Democratic National Convention and is currently a coordinator of the relaunched independent Bernie Delegates Network. Solomon is the author of a dozen books including "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.")
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