- Light Showers
- Anti-War Rally
- Australia Burning
- Chair Haschak
- Koch Land
- Coast OB
- Ambulance Funding
- Oregano Pete
- Mister 51%
- Generally Displeased
- Better Dead
- Cracked or Ethyl
- King Perv
- Yesterday's Catch
- Moral Cowards
- Bern Fear
- Government Sponsors
- Literally Insane
- Found Object
PERIODS OF LIGHT SHOWERS will persist across the region through Thursday morning. A brief period of dry weather is then expected Thursday afternoon into Friday morning, followed by additional showers Friday afternoon through mid next week. (NWS)
THURSDAY’S NO WAR WITH IRAN RALLY IN FORT BRAGG - just show up.
When: 12 Noon, Thursday Jan. 9, 2020
Where: In front of Town Hall, Fort Bragg – corner of Main & Laurel
Bring signs: ‘No War,’ ‘Honk for Peace,’ ‘No War With Iran’ or whatever you want to say.
Join us on Thursday, January 9 for a #NoWarWithIran demonstration and make the anti-war majority in this country visible.
People in the United States and across the globe are tired of war, from the military families who have seen multiple generations in the same conflicts, to the Iranian, Iraqi and Afghani families in the United States who worry for their loved ones back home.
We’ve learned our lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan and Yemen and global endless war. We will not be led into another costly, unnecessary war of choice. We will not allow our neighbors to be targeted by law enforcement. We will not be divided.
On Thursday, January 9, join MoveOn, Indivisible, Win Without War, the National Iranian American Council and About Face: Veterans Against The War to say #NoWarWithIran and oppose Trump's war—and spread the word!
Already, we've seen Trump's actions unleash xenophobia, with Iranian-Americans detained at the border in Washington state and asked about their political allegiance. That's not the country we want to build in 2020. And tonight we've seen a dangerous response to these actions.
Where Trump acts with ignorance, fear, war, and moral weakness, we will show up with diplomacy and political courage. We are the majority, we stand united, and we oppose Trump’s war with Iran.
Thanks for all you do.
–Kate, Eric, Reggie, Jayne, and the rest of the team
P.S. Also, join us on Wednesday January 8th for a national strategy call at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT to hear from Senator Elizabeth Warren, Representative Barbara Lee, foreign policy experts, MoveOn leaders, and more to learn how we can take action together to prevent another endless war.
P.P.S. And say you'll be there Thursday to make the anti-war majority in this country visible!”
PERSPECTIVE ON THE AUSTRALIAN FIRES
GREAT MOMENTS IN PUBLIC DELIBERATION
Supervisor John Haschak was made Chair of the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. During a discussion of whether to ask County Counsel to reply to the Measure B Committee’s questions about use of public funds for mental health services in a privately owned facility, it didn’t take long for Haschak to run slightly afoul of Supervisor McCowen who considers himself to be an expert in such procedural things.
McCowen: Mr. Chair [Haschak].
Haschak: I think we need to take public comment.
McCowen: I think it's probably more appropriate if we can convert this [directive] into a motion which we do have a recommended motion and the directive to also look at the questions from Willits [about whether the County has to comply with Willits city code should they do any Measure B funded construction at the Old Howard Hospital in Willits] would be incorporated in the motion so it's all very clear what the direction has been so with that I would move the recommended mo—
Haschak: [Interrupting] Well, let's hold off on that. Let's go to public comment. and then we'll come back for the —
McCowen: There is no —
McCowen: —requirement for the public —
Haschak: Are there any public comments? [Silence…] Seeing none, we will go to you Supervisor McCowen:.
McCowen: Maybe we could clarify with County Counsel is there a requirement to take public comment prior to a motion or is it sufficient if you have public comment either prior to or after a motion?
County Counsel Christian Curtis: Is --? Is --? Well, is that question being posed by the chair?
Haschak: No it's not! Because on my list it says that we invite public comment and then we invite a motion or action.
McCowen: We should revise our rules of procedure to clarify that.
Haschak: Well, we can do that later.
McCowen: Thank you.
HELEN CUEVAS WRITES:
I luv the buildings in the background. Not FB without them. Iconic Scene.
Friday night I attended the special informational Town Hall forum on the future of the OB/GYN program at our Hospital. The room was full of concerned citizens with folks standing in the back. We heard discouraging news. The Hospital continues to operate at a deficit. Discontinuing the OB/GYN services will substantially cut their losses. The speakers in attendance tended to disagree. There were many passionate speakers during public comment. They placed women’s health and the right to a safe birth in your own local hospital as more essential and important than the profit/loss statement could even begin to indicate. They asked the Hospital for tighter financial scrutiny and to perhaps look for cuts elsewhere in the budget. From what I understand, if there is a voter affirmed affiliation with Adventist Health, there will be a 60 day window period for the new affiliate and the Hospital Board to determine whether or not to continue the program or to morph into something else. But the tone of the Hospital presenters made it seem like it may be a foregone conclusion. I am hopeful that our medical professionals will sort this out. To me it is a quality of life issue. Our community will be encouraging young parents to have their children somewhere else and complicated births may become more life-threatening without a full range of OB services provided for support. The Board and Adventist Health, assuming they get affiliation approval, will make this decision jointly according to Board Member Steve Lund who spoke briefly on the topic just as the meeting was about to end. Nothing final yet.
Currently Dr.s are on call for births. No change there. Expectant Moms will be taken to a birthing room to deliver. No change there. Expectant Moms will not deliver in an ER bed or next to an ill person. No change there. Expectant Moms will have a person in attendance trained in child birth. No change there.
So what has changed? The door you walk through? Many expectant Moms choose to use out of the area hospitals to give birth. If a person chooses to deliver local, enter through the ER and the services are available. At risk births are planned for in advance and if MCDH can't handle it they are sent to another facility equipped to handle the situation.
All these rumors that there will be no place for a person to give birth are only adding more stress to expectant Moms who don't need that added stress. Yes, there are lots of unanswered questions but let’s drop the scare tactics.
With approximately 50 births a year seems staffing a unit 300 or so extra days is not feasible. Many don’t understand that just because one is admitted through ER, they are not giving birth next to sick patients, but rather in a birthing room like currently set up. Not much changes. As it is, docs are on call for births.
DAWN TUESDAY MORNING VIA MSP
KAREN MATTSON ASKS: Glad to see coverage on the ambulance issue/crisis. Now what can we do? Aside from letters and reporting what is the next step?
MARK SCARAMELLA REPLIES: The Supes could redirect a sizable portion of the Bed Tax revenue to ambulances in the very short term if they wanted to. The $1-$2 mil that the County spends on “promotion” each year is wasted because Bed Tax revenue tracks very closely to Sales Tax revenue (i.e., overall retail activity) and has no correlation to promotional activity. In addition, tourism and wine both contribute to increased ambulance calls, yet no bed tax money goes to ambulances. But that would require touching the Third Rail of Mendo Politics: the wine-tourism juggernaut. In effect, Mendo is saying that useless wine-tourism promotion is more important than ambulance services.
NO ONE I SOLD OREGANO TO IN HIGH SCHOOL SHOULD BE PRESIDENT
THEY WON’T SUBROGATE YOU, MISS YOUNG
by Bruce Anderson (May 1998)
Many years ago, my father and I were driving across the Golden Gate Bridge when the hood of his old Studebaker flew off and sailed over the side. “Jesus Christ!,” he exclaimed, “did you see that?”
Like I could have missed it. The next day I searched the Chronicle for a report of the freak death of maybe a shuffleboard player, killed in mid-shuffle on the deck of the Lurline as it passed through the Golden Gate.
The old man, always broke, was always buying junkers, the only transportation he could afford. He’d drive it until they “conked out,” as he described their inevitable failure, abandon them wherever they died, and walk off to find another one.
The best buy he ever made — purely by happenstance — was a 1947 Desoto yellow cab painted puke green; he bought it off a downtown used car lot for $150. Its transmission was so worn you could shift gears without the clutch, but, as a relic of a more graceful time, it was beautiful inside, complete with leather-sheathed jump seats. All seven of us liked to sit in it and pretend we were going places.
The patriarch’s attitude towards cars — that they were merely devices for getting from point A to point B — seems to have been passed genetically on, at least to me. He was only interested in transportation, and I’ve never been interested in them beyond their basic function either.
A few years ago, I bought a four-cylinder Plymouth van. I thought it felt sluggish as we drove along 128 towards Boonville, but I didn’t know it only had four cylinders until Navarro’s Mike Montana, the best mechanic I’ve known, diplomatically asked me why I’d gone for only four. “I wasn’t paying attention,” I explained, sparing him the incriminating explanation that I wasn’t paying attention because I don’t care so long as the thing gets me where I need to go. Mike was looking under the hood, because all the way back from The City where we’d made the purchase, there had been a rather ominous rumble coming from the engine area. “Well,” Mike said, “I’ve never seen this before.”
“This” was the power steering device left sitting unconnected on top of the engine. Somehow we’d driven all the way from Daly City to Boonville, then on to Navarro the next day, to ask Mike to find the source of the rumble, driven all those miles without dislodging the three-pound gizmo from its unsecured perch. How it had gotten off the lot like that is a mystery. How it had gotten to the lot and sold to me like that is perhaps a larger mystery.
The Plymouth has turned out to be a mystery in many ways, but reliable through two night-crawler sabotages by local liberals working overtime to make the world a better place, who twice poured metal filings into the crankcase on separate occasions, forcing us to buy two new engines, the third of which hums, haws, yaws, and coughs on cold mornings like reveille in a TB ward. But it keeps on running. I’ve come to be fond of the thing, now in its seventh year, chugging faithfully along on all four cylinders.
But a couple of Thursdays ago, El Niño, 1998’s designee for all catastrophes great and small, reached right up over the Mendocino bluffs and tapped me and my van.
It was about one in the afternoon. I was headed south on Highway One. Frank “AK” Lewis was in the passenger seat. We’d spent a productive morning in Fort Bragg scanning the police files on the infamous Fort Bragg Fires of 1987 and were headed back to Boonville in a heavy rain which seemed to be following us down the coast.
At Mendocino, where southbound travellers leave the Village’s mercantile cluster of thousand dollar seascapes and low-cal lattes to escape down Highway One, and from a distance of at least a couple of hundred feet, I saw four cars stopped smack in the middle of the road. I hit my brakes, which treacherously and immediately locked. And after all my devoted years to the jinxed Plymouth! I slid and slid and slid, at 40 miles an hour, finally crunching into the rear end of a Toyota pick-up. I was the fifth of five vehicles stacked up on the highway.
My first accident ever. The front end of my van crumpled, cracked and fell into the street, its plastic parts and frameless bulk fracturing like an abandoned accordion. Post-impact, my driver’s side door was off kilter but still able to emit me. I walked briskly to the driver’s side of the truck I’d run into, where a very young, eerily composed young woman sat reading “Main Street” as if she were in a deserted library and not behind the wheel of a vehicle which had just been rear-ended. Her name was Christina Young. She said she was a student at College of the Redwoods and was on her way home to Elk. Miss Young cheerfully answered all my inquiries and returned to Sinclair Lewis.
A middleaged woman from Napa had timidly pulled out from Mendocino, and then, for no reason she could specify, stopped on Highway One. An alert young man behind her stopped just short of rear-ending her, but Burton Clark, a long time friend of mine as it happens, plowed into the young man, severely damaging his and the young man’s car. Miss Young, the book reader, had stopped short of plowing into Mr. Clark’s car, but I skidded helplessly into Miss Young, managing only to dislocate her bumper. Upon meeting her I was dumbstruck at her startling serenity. I wondered if she’d packed in a paragraph of “Main Street” in the long interval it took me to skid into her.
The lady who’d caused the pile-up seemed mystified by the chain of events and denied that she’d stopped in the middle of the road. We all stood around chatting for nearly an hour waiting for the CHP.
I finally announced that I had to leave even if the police hadn’t arrived, assuming that I’d be blamed for all the damage in the five-car stack whether or not I was present when the investigation began. All it would take was the officer’s inevitable linking of me and my newspaper.
Three days later I received a letter from a claims adjustor. He said my collision with Miss Nerves-Of-Steel was regarded as a separate incident from the collision in front of me, and that I was responsible for both the significant damage to my beloved four cylinder chariot and Miss Young’s bent bumper.
“After careful consideration,” the letter said, “of all the facts, we have determined that BRUCE ANDERSON” [in bold black caps and underlined, just like this] “was found to be at least 51% at fault for this accident. We have assessed less than 51% fault to the other party(s), if any. Reason(s) for fault: Failure to stop safely behind the vehicle in front of you. Due to the facts of the accident, we will not be seeking subrogation against the other party for any damages you may have incurred.”
Fine with me. Under no circumstances should a person who can read a book — a good one, too — in the middle of an accident be subrogated.
IT’S A FUNNY THING ABOUT PEOPLE. People will hate a guy all his life for what he is, but the minute he dies for it they make him out a hero and they go around saying that maybe he wasn’t such a bad guy after all because he sure was willing to go the distance for whatever he believed or whatever he was.
— W. C. Heinz
OLD HIGHWAY 101
ADULT MALE FOUND WITH FORT BRAGG 13-YEAR-OLD CHARGED WITH KIDNAPPING AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING OF A MINOR
A long string of charges face King John Baylon, the 22-year-old Los Angeles male who UCSF Police say was located in the company of Sienna Carter, the 13-year-old girl from Fort Bragg who went missing on Friday, January 3 in San Francisco.
After a tip from a BART employee, Police found the missing girl at the San Francisco Ferry Building allegedly accompanied by Baylon on Sunday, January 5.
King John Baylon has been charged with a variety of crimes including kidnapping and possession of child pornography. He faces a $1,000,000 bond and will be arraigned later this week.
Baylon faces over 18 felony charges and 1 misdemeanor. After consulting with a spokesperson of the family who wanted the charges published, we have decided to post the following information from the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department booking logs. The litany of charges Baylon is facing include possession of child pornography, using minor for sex acts, sexual intercourse with an underage person, among others.
(Cold Case Mendocino)
CATCH OF THE DAY, January 7, 2020
LAINA GALLOWAY, Clarkdale, Arizona/Ukiah. Controlled substance, paraphernalia.
MIGUEL LOPEZ, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
LINDSAY MOLINERO, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
DAVID OSBOURN, Ukiah. Possession of photo with intent [intent to do what?].
JOSE PEREZ, Willits. Battery, disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation.
LARRY ST. LAURENT, Willits. Controlled substance for sale, transportation of controled substance, probation revocation.
SPENCER WEBB, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
BIDEN AND BUTTIGIEG ARE SHOWING HOW CORPORATISM AND “THE MADNESS OF MILITARISM” GO TOGETHER
by Norman Solomon
There's nothing like an illegal and utterly reckless U.S. act of war to illuminate the political character of presidential candidates. In the days since the assassination of Iran’s top military official, two of the highest-polling Democratic contenders have displayed the kind of moral cowardice that got the United States into—and kept it in—horrific wars from Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Eager to hedge their bets, Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg have offered merely tactical critiques of President Trump’s decision to kill Qassim Suleimani. In sharp contrast to Elizabeth Warren and especially Bernie Sanders, the gist of the responses from Biden and Buttigieg amounted to criticizing the absence of a game plan for an atrocious game that should never be played in the first place.
Many journalists have noted that only in recent days has foreign policy become prominent in the race for the 2020 nomination. But what remains to be addressed is the confluence of how Biden and Buttigieg approach the roles of the U.S. government in class war at home and military war abroad—both for the benefit of corporate elites.
Let’s be clear: More than 50 years ago, when Martin Luther King Jr. bravely condemned “the madness of militarism,” he was directly challenging those who included the political ancestors of the likes of Buttigieg and Biden—Democratic politicians willing to wink and nod at vast death and destruction, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers, equivocating while claiming that the war machinery would operate better in their hands.
On war-related issues, Buttigieg’s rhetorical mix offers something for just about anyone. “Mr. Buttigieg is campaigning as an antiwar veteran,” the New York Times oddly reported in a Jan. 5 news article. Yet on the same day, during a CNN interview about the drone killing, Buttigieg functioned more as a war enabler than opponent.
In response to anchor Jake Tapper’s first question—“Are you saying that President Trump deserves some credit for the strike?”—Buttigieg equivocated: “No, not until we know whether this was a good decision and how this decision was made, and the president has failed to demonstrate that.” His elaborations were littered with statements like “we need answers on whether this is part of a meaningful strategy.”
As for Biden, in recent months his shameful war-enabling history has drawn more attention while he continues to lie about it. And—given how hugely profitable endless wars have been for military contractors—Biden’s chronic enabling should be put in a wider context of his longtime service to corporate profiteering on a massive scale.
Biden has no interest in discussing his actual five-decade history of serving corporate power, which can only discredit the renewed “Lunch Bucket Joe” pretenses of his campaign. Meanwhile, as Buttigieg gained in the polls amid a widening flood of donations from Wall Street and other bastions of wealth, he moved away from initial claims of supporting such progressive measures as Medicare for All.
The military-industrial complex, inherently corporate, needs politicians like Biden and Buttigieg. One generation after another, they claim special geopolitical (Biden) or technocratic (Buttigieg) expertise while striving to project warm personas in front of cameras. The equivalents, one might say, of happy-face stickers on corpses.
Such dedicated political services to militarism are also political services to the corporate power of oligarchy.
Political positions on class warfare don’t always run parallel to positions on military warfare. But they have now clearly aligned in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Days ago, Bernie Sanders summed up: “I know that it is rarely the children of the billionaire class who face the agony of reckless foreign policy, it is the children of working families.”
One of the many reasons I’m actively supporting Sanders for president is that (although hardly flawless) his track record on military spending, war and foreign policy is much better than the records of his opponents.
Devastating impacts of nonstop war are all around us in the United States, from deadly federal budget priorities to traumatic effects of normalized violence. And it’s difficult to grasp the magnitude of harm to so many millions of human beings in other countries. Sometimes, while trying to clear away the fog of the USA’s political and media abstractions, I think of people I met in Baghdad and Kabul and Tehran, their lives no less precious than yours or mine.
(Norman Solomon is co-founder and national coordinator of RootsAction.org. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State." He is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.)
THE GOLDEN AGE OF ILLUSTRATION
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
I had a friend from Iran once. He was pissed that people here did not know about Persians and that we thought people in Iran were the same as Arabs here. He was so hotheaded that I myself saw similarities, but I kept quiet. Had veins popping out of his neck when he was pissed he did.
He claimed Persians were more civilized than Americans. Always would talk about the Persian Empire and somebody named Darius. But no matter how hard he tried to talk about anything else, he always wound up ranting about how America was fucked up and how ignorant we are here. A one trick pony. It pissed me off. I wanted to shake him and say 'Dude you are IN America. Stop that shit.'
HOW THE MALEFACTORS PAINT BERNIE
"Were a major political party to nominate an avowed socialist as its candidate for the White House, it would be a monumental event in the nation’s history. Sanders is not merely an amusing old crank but rather an advocate for truly dangerous ideas that have caused great violence, suffering, and deprivation of freedom throughout the world. And although he has mostly stopped apologizing for communist tyrants, his policy recommendations evince the same lack of judgment he showed in the days when he did so routinely."
by Ted Dace
Shortly after 1600, Judge Nicholas Remy of Lorraine boasted that he’d sent no less than 800 witches to their death. He’d also sentenced the children of these diabolical sorcerers to be beaten with rods as they watched their mothers burned alive. But over the years he was beset by a nagging doubt: was I too lenient?
In the early modern era the practice of witch burning was all the rage in western Europe. When the king of the Netherlands proclaimed witchcraft the greatest scourge of humanity, the Dutch people howled for the mass incineration of women. How could this happen? How was the world turned upside down? This was a period of great progress. Medieval society had mostly given way to the bourgeois order of town-based trade and manufacture. Technology and education and civil service were on the rise. Even if the Church was falling apart, the State was absolute. Can technological advance and social regimentation trigger mass insanity?
According to Leonard Shlain, the late author of The Alphabet Versus the Goddess (1998), one technology in particular, alphabetic literacy, has the power to cast a spell over the human mind, replacing contextual perception with simpleminded certainty. As holistic intuitive wisdom — long associated with the feminine — is displaced by the analytical and the literal, the status of women declines precipitously. Since visual art relies on holistic all-at-once perception, this too comes under attack in newly literate societies spellbound by the linear, partitioned, reductionist logic inherent to writing.
Alone among the species of life, humans inhabit not only the world of the senses but a purely symbolic universe mediated by complex language. This makes us uniquely vulnerable to insanity. Unlike a rabid dog, each of us is perfectly capable of going mad without any organic cause. All we have to do is alter our symbolic replication of the world in a way that agrees with our self-serving prejudice instead of reality.
Yet we cannot retreat entirely into our virtual reality. From a biological standpoint we remain animals. Descended from tree-dwelling primates, we rely on vision as our central sensory modality. Seeing is believing. The written word is the symbolic universe of grammatical language made visible. Now that we see it, it must be true, right? Just as an airborne ape relies on the absolute truth of the image of the branch just ahead, the truth of the written word is self-evident. For newly literate societies, truth seems to be contained in the words on the page, and no greater or deeper truth is possible outside them.
Intuition is the ability to know something without knowing how we know it. For the literalist, this cloudy form of knowledge is intolerable. Either you see it and it’s true or you don’t see it and it’s false. Nuance and complexity and ambivalence, rather than characterizing reality, are the enemy of the "rational" mind. To beat back these threats, we must suppress our feminine side and accept the absolute truth of the written word. But the logic can't stop there. To extend the attack to actual women — not just the universal feminine principle that abides in us all — is simply to draw the battle lines literally.
Beginning around 1700 BC, every spring for a thousand years the proto-alphabetic Seven Tablets of Creation were recited aloud in Babylon. Ordinarily a creation myth centers on a female deity, since after all each of us is born from a woman. But in this creation myth — the first ever to be written down — the feminine principle is represented by a sea monster that must be slain by a heroic male, who then kills her son and from his dismembered parts fashions the human race. Life is given not by woman but by the man who murders her.
The Judaic Bible was the first fully alphabetic book. The triumph of literalism over reason, of blind obedience over conscience, is evident from the first commandment. You are to worship one deity only, a male deity. Forget about intuition or contextual thinking. Just read the words and see the light. The second commandment is to abolish images of all things in heaven and earth. According to Shlain, this one follows immediately from the first because the unquestioned authority of text is undermined by visual art. Only with the sixth commandment does Yahweh get around to forbidding murder, an injunction weakened by his command elsewhere to murder "idolatrous priests," that is, priests who make use of imagery in worship. Literalists fail to notice the contradiction because the truth is whatever you're reading at the time, and you can’t read two things at once.
Just as the Bible transforms woman, in the form of Eve, from bringer of life to bringer of death, the Greeks disempowered women as soon as they had an alphabet. Whereas Solon placed women under male guardianship, denying them the right to own land or participate in education or government, in illiterate Sparta women enjoyed the same rights they’d always had. Meanwhile goddesses were demoted or even replaced altogether by gods. Most notable in this regard was the elimination of Hestia, goddess of hearth and family, in favor of Dionysus, whose claim to fame was bewitching women into murdering their husbands and children. Shlain suggests this myth enabled literalist men to project their mindless unreasoning onto women, the very people victimized by the new order. As the duality of Apollo-Dionysus reveals, the Greeks understood at least unconsciously that the reasoned meditations embodied in their philosophical texts came at the cost of a new kind of madness.
Like Buddhism, which began as an egalitarian oral tradition but degenerated under the spell of the sutras into rigidly patriarchal religion, Christianity originated in the heartfelt spoken teachings of Rabbi Yeshua, a.k.a. Jesus, but was soon co-opted by literary evangelists like Paul who emphasized sin and individual suffering over love and the joyous community. Whereas Jesus attacked the "scribes" for adhering to the letter of the law and forgetting justice, mercy and integrity, Paul was himself a lawyer who rebranded Jesus as Christ, a Greek word meaning the chosen one. Paul advocated a legalistic mechanism by which a simple statement of belief in the chosen one guarantees entry into paradise after death. Yet nowhere in the gospels does Jesus tell his followers they will die and enjoy a glorious afterlife. What he does say is that if they eat of his bread, they will never die. "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish." That doesn't sound like they will die and go to heaven. He's saying they simply will not die. Period.
Sometimes words need to be taken at face value. By defining literalism as the pathological tendency to treat words as if they contain absolute truth, I don't mean to imply that figurative readings are always better than literal. In fact either reading is available to the pathological literalist.
As Jesus describes it, far from an otherworldly afterlife the kingdom of heaven is an egalitarian society on the basis of earned mutual respect. But to get to that understanding you have to make an effort and read carefully. If you just pick a few preferred phrases here and there and present them without the whole picture, their meaning easily alters into something unrelated or even opposed to what the speaker intended.
The Orthodox persecuted the Gnostics in part for trying to make sense of what Jesus meant when he said the truth was he himself. The truth exists solely in the context of a living mind and cannot be spelled out in a document. What is expressed in words is never more than someone’s reasonable (or unreasonable) approximation. Reading requires not only a pair of eyes but intelligence and interpretation. Otherwise truth has no depth, no power, only platitude.
In contrast to the rabbi's ideal society based on brother and sisterhood in God, in Paul’s utopia the head of every man is Christ, and the head of every woman is her husband. Christ, for Paul, is code for obey. Believe whatever the words tell you. Better yet, believe what I tell you the words mean.
For Paul the last day is the day all believers who have died are resurrected from their graves, much as Christ was resurrected from his. For Jesus, on the other hand, the last day is when his Father wipes away the irredeemably corrupt world of emperors and prefects and local sell-outs like pharisees and sadducees. The rabbi and his followers, meanwhile, would not die but would live on in a kingdom called Heaven.
It might be a shock to the average Christian that the Jesus of the gospels never mentions a plan to take up the cross so as to die and be resurrected into a spectral afterworld and that all his friends would be invited too. None of that is in there. It’s all Paul casting his spell. Later Augustine would recast it in the fully crystallized form of "original sin." The insidious magic here is to twist the fall of humanity in Genesis, which tells us we face a hard struggle in this world, into total damnation, not only in life but in death. This is nowhere found in Genesis. Even greater than the power over the visual human mind wielded by the word that’s there — the revealed truth — is the power of the word that isn’t there but is "seen" nonetheless.
The original magic was cave art, which (according to our best guess) served to capture a desired animal in spirit so as to ease its capture in the flesh. Wired to believe what they saw, our ancestors thought they had already captured, in essence, their prey. But text has far greater power because with it we place before the eye the grammatical mechanics of human thought itself. Yet even this pales beside the power of text we "see" though it’s not really there. By imprinting on the mind directly, without sensory mediation, it becomes internal to the believer and therefore ineradicable.
Shlain notes that the magic of writing is most powerful when first introduced to a society. Over time the spell wears off, allowing literacy to become a vehicle of enlightenment. Though the status of not only women but art had gradually rebounded in Rome in the centuries after the introduction of writing, it plummeted once more with the Christian takeover of the Empire. Only when Rome lay in ruins did light reenter the world in the form of medieval society, a time of relative class and gender equality, though of course class equality was eventually undermined with an increasingly wealthy aristocracy. The rehabilitation of the social status of women, the "age of chivalry," was signified by the widespread rededication, after AD 600, of former pagan temples to Mother Mary, whose image was widely copied by a people no longer subservient to the written word. Meanwhile in Arabia the status of women and images came under attack by newly literate readers of the Koran.
Even the twin rise of literacy and misogyny in the late medieval period, well documented by Shlain, could not have prepared western European women for what was to come. In China the 9th century technology of the printing press was soon applied to the feet of women. Foot binding followed from book binding. As terrible as this was, what happened in Europe was far worse. The first known incidents of woman burning, a.k.a. witch burning, took place in 1460, only six years after Gutenberg printed his first Bible. In that year 12 women were executed by burning in Arras, France and 12 more in Heidelberg.
Mere coincidence? Though handwritten words can hijack the visual circuit such that any kind of nonsense is taken at face value, with its regularity and "perfection" the printed word takes on even greater authority in the mind of the reader, almost as if written by God’s own hand. Printing exaggerates the human weakness to unreflectively believe whatever is placed before the eye.
The church-commissioned justification and guide for witch hunting, Malleus Maleficarium, was a huge hit because it exploited the unconscious fear that the literalist route to truth is too good to be true. Since the best defense is a good offense, the true believers went on the warpath. To find a witch, a coven of witch hunters would arrive in a village and ask the locals if they'd experienced any recent misfortunes such as crop failure or impotence. If the answer was yes, they would round up local suspects, nearly all of them female and socially marginal, to see if any of them had cast an evil spell. Each suspect was stripped naked before a tribunal to see if she had any telling birthmarks. Meanwhile a "pricker" would surreptitiously poke her with a small needle. Failure to react was taken as evidence of guilt. This method was guaranteed to produce results since the victims were already in shock from their maximal vulnerability before the eyes of the tribunal and were therefore likely not to notice such a tiny prick.
Once found guilty the victim was tortured so as to produce the names of other witches. At this point the authorities might show mercy and have her strangled before being staked, but most victims were burned alive. In Shlain's words, a "tornado of gender terror and sadism… indiscriminately sucked women up into its vortex."
The return to mass literacy prompted by the printing press helped galvanize the protestant movement and its emphasis on Bible study. Rather than return to the core teachings of Jesus, however, protestants like Luther and Calvin were fixated on the fate of the soul after the death of the body. Like words on a page, each of which must follow from the previous, each soul is predestined by God. You've been either selected for heavenly afterlife or consigned to eternity in hell. If Protestantism has a central tenet, it's that material prosperity signifies your status before God. Thus Jesus’ teaching on the impossibility of a rich person entering heaven is twisted into its exact opposite: only the rich will enter.
According to Shlain, not the content of the Bible but the monomaniacal logic of newly awakened literacy drove the major protestant sects. Because Calvin saw no meaning outside the black and white world of the written word, he felt justified in turning Geneva into the world’s first totalitarian state. So as to leave nothing to distract the faithful, every last drop of the water of life was wrung from the sponge. Calvin seized images of Mary and the saints and banned colorful clothes, dancing, singing and even laughter. In his Christian paradise an unmarried woman found to be pregnant was summarily executed by drowning. What God wants is not good works but only a simple-minded faith in him. The absurdity of worshipping a deity so deranged that he would eternally torment his own creations only demonstrates the strength of that faith.
For today’s literalists, known as evangelicals, to follow the example set by Jesus in the gospels can only mean giving away all your possessions and living as a mendicant. Since we cannot be expected to actually do this, clearly we’re not meant to take Jesus at his word and in fact, quite the opposite, we should follow the capitalist path of exploiting others in order to get rich. This was the mindset of the people — with a gun in one hand and a Bible in the other — who exterminated Native Americans and enslaved Africans. Yet all the while Jesus loves us because we place into linear linguistic sequence our faith in him. Evangelicals are bound to a legalistic mechanism that expiates original sin in the case of true believers. The core idea, according to former evangelical Adam Kotsko, is that "Christ did not live a perfect life so that we could follow in his footsteps, but precisely so that we wouldn’t have to."
Given the astounding corruption of the Renaissance popes and the horror of the Spanish Inquisition, which began in 1483, only 13 years after the introduction of the printing press in Spain, a protestant reaction was inevitable. Yet the result was a pair of equally fanatical blocs. The only thing each side hated more than witches was the other side. Each bloc could justify decades of war by legitimately pointing to the insanity of the other. The same logic was at work centuries later during the Cold War.
In the early modern era collective madness took root only in the West and only where printing was established. Not until the 19th century did Russia embrace printing technology. Launched into a world of textual abstraction unmoored from textured reality, by the 1880s many Russians were convinced that the Jews in their midst were plotting against them. But the real kicker came in 1917 with the advent of communism. Inspired by the Communist Manifesto, a text that promises a secular version of salvation, the Bolsheviks destroyed art and tortured confessions out of their enemies in order to justify execution or — if they took mercy on their victims — exile to Siberia. The new protestants, as Shlain calls them, purged society of color and gaiety. Not long after Mao’s 1952 imposition of the alphabet onto China, mobs of chanting youth embarked on their own inquisition while clutching their little Red Book.
Rather than recognize the evil inherent to a system that perpetuates poverty and desperation so as to keep the masses willing to work at any wage, Joe McCarthy demonized those who would question his faith in the invisible hand of the almighty market. Note, however, that with this witch hunt there was no torture and only two executions. After the harassment and false imprisonment of several daycare workers, the Satanic child abuse hysteria of the 80s died down fairly quickly. We could begin to imagine that the hysteria (testeria?) was on its way out altogether.
And then came the internet. Now the masses are exposed not only to print but to pixilated print, a shiny electronic alternative to drab ink on paper. We spend hours each day bathed in the dim light of cellphone screens, texting each other and scrolling Facebook and Twitter feeds. Has a newly spellbound population fallen prey to a new round of literalist fanaticism?
When Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election, instead of recognizing that her campaign failed because her policies offered no hope to the working poor, she blamed Russian interference. Despite the fact that the Russian campaign to influence the US election enjoyed a miniscule fraction of the funding of the Clinton campaign and had no measurable effect on the election, the only conceivable explanation of her loss was sabotage from the enemy-other. Never mind that the US, with its "shock therapy" program, tried to destroy any possibility of Russian recovery after the fall of the Soviet Union and that hatred of Putin was triggered by his success at restoring prosperity to a country US leaders hoped would remain weak forever. Never mind that a squadron of American electoral campaign experts turned the Russian 1996 election from a sure loss for US puppet Yeltsin into a victory. Never mind that the Obama administration backed a coup in Ukraine intended to bring NATO to Russia’s doorstep. We can ignore all that because it says somewhere in a New York Times article that we’re the good guys and they’re the bad guys.
When you glom onto a few words, in this case "the Russians did it," and treat your favored phrase as the absolute truth, no amount of context can change your mind. To claim that Russia has somehow done us wrong, we who have attacked Russia at every turn and even subverted one of its presidential elections — the very thing we accuse the Russians of doing to us — is literally insane.
Two days before Christmas the latest witch hunt got personal when a friend of mine posted an article on Facebook about the refusal of the left to grant unconditional support to whoever the Democratic Party nominates for president, no matter how Republican-like they might be. The author referred to these difficult people as the anti-anti-Trump left. I pointed out that principled opposition to servants of Wall Street and the Pentagon — even if they happen to be Democrats — in no way constitutes support for Trump. Within 30 minutes someone chimed in to say "either you're a Russian bot or merely a tool."
I might have responded that the anti-Russia narrative is intended by the party elite to keep the rabble voting against their own interests every four years, but then words of reason are no match for words of magic.