- Chilly Mornings
- Halloween 1945
- Riot Gear
- Nine New Cases
- Hotel Purchase
- Boonville Parade
- Halloween 2020
- KZYX Closure
- Fall Back
- Doofus Gang
- Mendocino CA
- Ed Notes
- Navarro Views
- Streetscape Update
- Lewd Actor
- Yesterday's Catch
- Connect Room
- Golden West
- DiPrima Offspring
- Engine Daisy
- Decline Signs
- Old Homestead
- House Divided
- Point Arena
- Christian Nationalism
- Fort Bragg
- Brainless Swine
- Noyo Harbor
- Marco Radio
- Odd Bodkins
- Laptop Follies
- Nance Snaps
DRY WEATHER is expected through early next week, with chilly mornings and warm afternoons. Skies will generally remain clear except for occasional coastal clouds and patches of fog. (NWS)
THE POLICE DEPARTMENT has purchased protective riot helmets and shields and will be implementing deescalation protocols. When protests and riots broke out in late May throughout the country and continued over the summer into this fall, we realized our department needed to be prepared and ready, even if it is to help other local jurisdictions. (Fort Bragg Police Department presser)
NINE NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County on Friday, bringing total to 1165.
BEST WESTERN PURCHASE A BAD IDEA
To the Editor:
Buy it and they will come.
Since I haven’t fired up my pen since February to write about our local homelessness problem, I think recent developments warrant further comment.
Martha Barra and TWK have done a masterful job of describing the current status of our local homeless situation in their opinions expressed recently in this newspaper, and offered constructive recommendations on dealing with the issues. In spite of those suggested actions, and others sent to the BOS in an appeal for further discussion, the County has added a great deal more intrigue with their 5-0 vote to approve the agenda item 5h “Recommended Action” in the Board of Supervisors meeting last Tuesday.
For those dying of curiosity about the “Recommended Action”, it is documented as follows:
“Adopt Resolution authorizing the purchase of real property located at 555 South Orchard Avenue, Ukiah, California (APN 002-340-3900), in the amount of $10,640,000, approving the agreement of purchase and sale for the property, and authorizing the purchasing agent or designee to sign and execute any and all agreements, amendments, and other documents related to the purchase of the property; and authorize the Chair to sign same.”
This vote authorized the purchase of the Best Western Orchard Inn on South Orchard Avenue for almost $11 million, retrofit as needed, to provide housing for the Ukiah homeless on one of the two main commercial corridors in Ukiah. How does that make sense? If the BOS had tried harder I’m sure they could have found a location more suitable to provide adequate, less expensive, housing; and giving these residents a 6 minute, rather 45 minute, walk to their next meal. On the surface Motel 6 on South State Street has some appeal, and they would be preserving the commercial integrity of the Orchard Avenue corridor.
In one of TWK’s recent missives, he wrote about “Poor Sad Thomas Street” in which his closing statement was “Ukiah can do better.” I couldn’t agree more with his view and believe the same also applies to this transaction. I’m no accountant but it seems the negative impact on the City tax base by taking a positive revenue producing property out of production, and converting it to a serious expense line item in the City budget is a major challenge to reconcile.
As a result of the BOS vote, the proverbial “horse may be out of the barn”, as they prepare to spend a great deal of our hard-earned tax dollars to fulfill the terms of this transaction. If any you are chagrined about their decision and the negative impact on our City, make yourself known. Thank you.
Hello people of the Valley,
Wanted to give you a more in depth explanation of how the Halloween Parade will work. We have Participants-parents driving thru parade route with children in cars in costumes. Children stay in the car at all times!! Windows down, sun roof open, back hatch open are ok.
Then we have Distributors - People in spaces, along one side of parade route. Spaces will be 10-12 feet wide. No more than 3 people per space. Big enough to pull your vehicle in and be distanced from other distributors. As cars come along parade route, distributors take candy to each car. Everyone wearing masks.
We’d like EVERYONE to dress in costumes. And decorate your cars as well!! If we all pull together, we can make this a great fun community event!! Something we can ALL use right now. So PLEASE call one of the phone#s to volunteer. We’re also taking donations of candy. They can be dropped off at Fair office.
Thank you all
MARCO ON KZYX:
Every once in awhile I get an urge to call [KZYX], and then I start thinking of what to say, and I start getting upset all over again because what's the point of even engaging with them? and I have things to do anyway on my own projects and my day job and hobbies and then another week has gone by. Just getting ready for and doing my weekly eight-hour radio show is almost a full-time job by itself.
For example, I wonder if the management schmucks at KZYX applied for a COVID loan/grant to tide themselves over the latest lean times, because of course they would, and they'd see nothing wrong with that. The $100,000 love gift the heirs to that S.F. legal firm gave them last summer, an amount that would fully maintain KNYO for ten years, flew directly into management's personal bank accounts. (The handful of people in the office suck $300,000 out of KZYX just for themselves every year. They don't see anything wrong with that. Nor have they ever seen anything wrong with pissing $600,000 into the aether every year for such a bland, dumb, harmless product to squat on a high-power license with.
For another example, I suspect that Alicia Bales participated in sabotaging KMEC overtly or through incompetence when she was president of the board there and possibly after.
What do I want...? what do I want...? I want them to call me, offer me some time Friday nights and offer to pay me for my work, the way they pay the NPR people and PRX people and the MPR people, and so on, and also they should say they'll begin paying the local airpeople a regular stipend. So I can say, "Too little, too late. Go fuck yourself," and hang up. That would be closure for me.
DOOFUS GANG HANGS THE JURY
A Mendocino County Superior Court jury returned from its deliberations on Monday morning, October 26th, to announce it was hopelessly deadlocked and would not be able to reach unanimous verdicts.
After consulting with the prosecutor and the three defense attorneys, Presiding Judge Ann Moorman declared a mistrial.
After the members of the jury were thanked and excused, the parties were ordered to return to court on November 13, 2020 to receive notice of whether or not the District Attorney has elected to pursue a second retrial in front of a new and different jury.
Per protocol, the District Attorney, the trial prosecutor, and senior office prosecutors will meet and discuss the procedural and factual history of the case, the conflicting juror splits from both the first trial and the retrial, all available evidence, additional investigation, if any, and other pertinent information. District Attorney Eyster will be the final arbiter of whether or not to seek a second retrial.
Defendants Nathan Dominic Kurtz, age 26, of Petaluma; Azuriah Paul, age 26, of Forestville; and Shane Christian Waier, age 26, of Capitola, remain charged with first degree robbery in concert with two or more others, along with certain special allegations relating to firearms.
The law enforcement agencies that were involved in the investigation of this July 2019 case continue to be the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, the Mendocino Major Crimes Task Force, and the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigations.
The attorney prosecuting the three defendants is Assistant District Attorney Dale P. Trigg.
Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Keith Faulder presided over the five-day trial.
Background: Low Gap Raiders Come to Court
WILL THE RUSSKIES again try to re-elect their boy, Trump? Probably. They did last time even as Trump correctly denounced the “deep state” for trying to deny him the White House and then, when he took the White House, worked overtime to oust him. The Russians’ dirty tricks would have been mooted if the Democrats had managed to run an electable person, but it seems clear now that Russians swung the election to Trump via the last minute dump of Hillary's private e-mails, which they released through Assange's Wikileaks. That email dump revealed how the DNC shafted the tame socialist, Bernie, not that it surprised anyone that the DNC and its primary funders would oppose even the mild reforms Bernie is for. The irony, among many ironies in all the skullduggery and Trump's constant denunciations of the deep state, that it was the deep state's FBI chief, James Comes, who announced a week before the 2016 election that the FBI was investigating ol' Hill and her e-mails. From all accounts Comey's announcement had a large last minute impact on voter opinion against Hill and for Trump, meaning it was the deep state that got him elected.
GLENN GREENWALD has been shoved out of Intercept, which he co-founded. Shoved out by whom? The middle-of-the-road extremists who run it now who refused to publish Greenwald's calm analysis about how the mainstream media, and much of the so-called left media, have refused to cover the revelations that Biden and his son have apparently monetized Joe's power-fame into big bucks from China and the Ukraine. Greenwald tried to point how how media bias in favor of Biden's election has caused big media to ignore the story for fear that the orange monster will be re-elected. Matt Taibbi covers the entire Greenwald story elsewhere, but it all translates to me at Boonville's beloved weekly that if freedom of speech and opinion depends on the libs, it's likely over.
RAGING BULL: Trump railed about his Trump-dominated Supreme Court Thursday after it ruled that Pennsylvania and North Carolina could count mail-in ballots after election day, claiming it could mean a "ridiculous" victory to Joe Biden. El Presidente said Biden would pack the Supreme Court with more liberal justices and "If Sleepy Joe Biden is actually elected President, the 4 Justices (plus1) that helped make such a ridiculous win possible would be relegated to sitting on not only a heavily PACKED COURT, but probably a REVOLVING COURT as well. At least the many new Justices will be Radical Left!."
RADICAL LEFT? There isn't even a left, let alone a radical left. But Trump and Trumpers imagine that the millions of soft, corporate libs they otherwise characterize as latte-drinking wimpsucks, are also fearsome radicals because, I guess, they've never met a radical or have the foggiest notion of what they're talking about when they mindlessly repeat the idiocy about the "Marxist" menace they hear on Fox or read on some crackpot cyber-site.
AS THE SAGE of Boonville often points out, people generally believe what they need to believe, seldom revising their opinions even in the face of the facts. But on the off chance that the Trumpers reading this are interested there's a feature story in the current New Yorker magazine on Antifa. The writer interviews a few of their leading lights and a couple of Proud Boys as they clash in Portland. The Antifas… well, intellectually, they're unimpressive, to put it gently. No sign of a neo-Lenin. No sign that any of them are capable of anything more than sloganeering and ineffectively fighting your local police department. The Proud Boy types are much more inclined to ultra-vi but they, too, lack leadership of Hitler-Mussolini capacity, but I daresay their crude messaging appeals to more people, at this time, than Antifa's does, mostly because the Proud Boys present more acceptably than Antifa's ragged shock troops; media, as media have done since the 1960's, portrays anybody to the left of Biden and the NPR demographic as lunatics, and they always manage to find the craziest-looking demonstrator to feature on the evening news.
TENSIONS are rising, for a fact, with both Trumpers and the lib media not exactly predicting but regularly implying widespread violence in the wake of the election no matter who wins. For instance, Walmart says it has removed guns and ammo from displays at its stores, citing “civil unrest” across America as the reason, and the election hasn't even happened yet. “We have seen some isolated civil unrest and as we have done on several occasions over the last few years, we have moved our firearms and ammunition off the sales floor as a precaution for the safety of our associates and customers,” Walmart said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press on Thursday.
UKIAH’S DOWNTOWN STREETSCAPE PROJECT CONSTRUCTION UPDATE - October 30
New sidewalks continue to be poured, one block at a time. Please note that, on the day the new concrete is poured, access to front doors of businesses may be restricted. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. The next day, however, businesses and pedestrians will have full use of the new, improved sidewalks. We’re also working to get parking restored as soon as possible in the areas where new sidewalk has been poured. The landscaping, trees, pedestrian lights, etc. won’t be installed until later in the project. As nice as these new sidewalks are, know that the final product is going to be so much better!
New utility infrastructure continues to move forward on the south end, with sewer construction complete and water main work ongoing. Just a few more weeks before this part of the project is over. After that, construction will be confined to 2-3 block sections, which will make getting around downtown MUCH easier.
Construction Update - Week of November 2
North Side: Perkins to Henry Street
Ghilotti Construction and their subcontractors continue to pour new sidewalks, and will complete the section in front of the courthouse. Also, parking along West Perkins and Standley Streets will be restored.
Monday: Pouring the sidewalk at the NW corner of Perkins and State at the courthouse.
Tuesday: Forming the section of sidewalk in front of the courthouse.
Wednesday: Pouring concrete in front of the courthouse.
Thursday: Forming the SW corner of Standley and State.
Friday: Pouring the corner of Standley and State.
Starting Monday, November 9th, the work to install new sidewalks on the west side between Standley and Smith Streets will begin, working south to north. Details to follow.
Work hours are from 7am to 5pm in this area this week; no night work is planned.
South Side: Church to Mill Street
Wahlund Construction continues the installation of the water infrastructure between Mill and Seminary.
Monday-Friday: Main water line installation between Mill and Seminary. There will be an open trench along the west side of State Street, and some dust and noise associated with the trenching.
Through traffic will be maintained on State Street during business hours, but there may be intermittent closures and detours between 6-7:30am; additionally, East and West Mill Street at State will be closed from Tuesday through Friday.
Construction work will begin at 6 am in this area this week, and no night work is planned.
As always, please feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions or concerns. Otherwise, have a great weekend, and Happy Halloween!
Shannon Riley, Deputy City Manager, City of Ukiah
300 Seminary Avenue, Ukiah, California 95482
w: (707) 467-5793
FELONY WARRANT, LEWD ACTS W/CHILD
Lena Reid, 20 years old/Fort Bragg
In May 2020, Fort Bragg Police Department received information of a Lewd Act with a Child under 14 years; an incident that occurred in April 2020 within the city limits of Fort Bragg.
Fort Bragg Police Officers conducted an active investigation into the incident. Upon completion of the investigation, the report was forwarded to the Mendocino County District Attorney for review. After review by the District Attorney’s Office they filed eleven counts of Lewd Acts on a child under 14 year of age, six charges are felonies, five are misdemeanor violations. Ten Mile Superior Court in Fort Bragg issued an arrest warrant for Lena Reid of Fort Bragg.
On October 26, 2020, Reid was located on South St. near Main St. and taken into custody. Reid was booked at the Fort Bragg Police Department than transported to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Jail to be held until her court hearing.
This investigation was multi-jurisdictional involving the Ukiah Police Department, California State Parole Office and the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office.
CATCH OF THE DAY, October 30, 2020
SHANNON ARNOLD, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, battery on peace officer, probation revocation. (Frequent Flyer)
RICHARD BENWELL, Baltimore, Maryland/Ukiah. Trespassing, resisting.
ALLEN BUSH, Ukiah. Parole violation.
JOSE GARCIA-LEON, Ukiah. DUI, no license.
JORGE LUGO, Ukiah. Narcotics/controlled substance for sale, probation revocation.
WILLIAM MEDERS, Willits. Community supervision violation.
ALVINO MIRANDA, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation.
CESILIA NELSON, Ukiah. Controlled substance, probation revocation.
JUSTIN ROBINSON, Lucerne/Ukiah. Protective order violation, probation revocation.
GABRIEL TAMAYO, Lakeport/Ukiah. Protective order violation.
FEDS PREPARE FOR THE ELECTION
NCRIC/SF FBI Private Sector 2020 Election HSIN Connect Room
The Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC) in partnership with the San Francisco FBI Field Division, will activate a Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) Connect Room which will be used to provide public safety information to our Private Sector Partners related to the upcoming 2020 National Election.
Current members of the San Francisco FBI InfraGard Member Alliance and the NCRIC Private Sector Program are invited to register, using the link below, to gain access to this resource. To gain access individuals must be a member of one of these two groups. 2020 Election HSIN Connect Room Registration Link: https://ncric.ca.gov/NCRICSFIGElection2020HSINConRoom
The NCRIC/SF FBI Private Sector 2020 Election HSIN Connect Room will be activated Monday, November 2, 2020, from 8:00 AM-8:00 PM, and will remain operational through November 5, 2020, during the same 12-hour timeframe each day, unless public safety related activity dictates differently.
The HSIN Connect Room will provide a forum where information and relevant documents will be posted which have been gleaned from various government sources tasked with ensuring public safety during the week of the National Election.
The HSIN Connect Room will not provide a means to report criminal activity or engage in two-way communications with either the NCRIC or the SF FBI personnel.
The sole purpose of this resource is to provide public safety information to private sector partners in as close to real-time as possible.
As always, emergencies and in-progress criminal activity should be reported via 911 to local law enforcement. Suspicious activity (Suspicious Activity Reporting Criteria Guide) can be reported through the NCRIC Website www.ncric.ca.gov
If you have questions about the HSIN Connect Room, please contact Craig Buehler NCRIC Director, Private Sector Engagement at
If you are not currently a NCRIC member:
NCRIC is a regional fusion center in California covering 15 Bay Area and North Coast Counties. It is actively engaged in information sharing with the private sector, especially through its weekly Partner Brief.
The information shared by the NCRIC is mostly For Official Use Only and does have information sharing and handling restrictions. The NCRIC follows the TLP protocol. If you are not familiar with this protocol, you can learn more about it at https://www.cisa.gov/tlp
If you are not already a NCRIC partner and are interested in getting connecting:
Go to www.ncric.ca.gov Click on the “Join Us” tab located on the tool bar Select “Private Sector Partner” from the drop-down list Click the red “Submit Application” button located in the right column Complete and submit the application
Counties covered by NCRIC: Alameda, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma.
If you have questions or want more information about NCRIC please contact NCRIC’s Director of Private Sector Engagement - Craig Buehler at email@example.com
DIANE DI PRIMA PASSED ON SUNDAY, OCTOBER 26
Robin DeMers Williams wrote (Coast Listserve):
Fierce poet (beyond Beat era), writer, thinker, human being... passed on Sunday at the age of 86 in San Francisco. I had the privilege of attending her private classes for four years between 2002 and 2006. I owe her an enormous debt of gratitude not just for sharing her wisdom on writing and literature, but also for helping to reshape the entire way I view the world to forge a truer path. May you Rest In Peace, Diane, and finally touch the sun.
* * *
The City Lights tribute didn't mention it, but Diane DiPrima had five children. One of her daughters, Tara Marlowe, was at the Mendocino Community School for at least the two years that I worked there in the early 1980s. Fifteen or sixteen years old, she was boyfriend-girlfriend with a Mark Hollywood who later went on to become a teaching chef. It was a tempestuous relationship, incorporating the occasional cannon-shot slammed door that shook the floor and windows in the entire main building. On one special cleanup day, everyone was clearing brush outside and carrying things around, and it was a hot day and everyone was in their regular school clothes. Tara walked past me, stopped, turned, said, comic-angrily, "If you were a girl you'd know what it feels like to have sweat under your tits," and continued on her way, dragging an uprooted shrub. That would make Tara fifty now. Early fifties.
There were other famous poets and writers and musicians who sent their kids to the Community School. An artist who called herself Polly Esther Nation was Chris Diurni's mother. Chris, tall, thin, aristocratic looking, with jet black hair and long paper-white face with sharp eyes and cheekbones, was a natural on the electric guitar. There wasn't anything he couldn't do with it. He was diabetic, so used to needles, and I don't know if that had anything to do with his eventual death of a heroin overdose, goddammit, so his girlfriend Meg woke up one morning and he was dead and cold in the bed next to her, but it likely did.
Antonia Lamb's daughter went to the Community School. Scott Beach's son Dylan went there. Rita's daughter Midnight sang in a school band called Surrender. Michael Equine's daughter Rain could also sing like Mahalia Jackson.
And there were a bunch of kids at the Community School whose hippie parents were absent much of the time -- either merely physically absent or present physically and not so much mentally. Kids would often sleep in the attic and come down in the middle of the night to run around and play Dungeons and Dragons and have swordfights with swords made out of cardboard and pool noodles and duct tape. I'm trying to think of what became of those ones... apparently the upbringing was adequate. One is a competent heavy equipment operator with his own machines. Just people trying to get along, like everybody else.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
What is this wokester stuff but psychological and behavioural rigidity? Like an intellectual parkinsonism maybe. Or maybe more like the kind of thing that good wokesters piss on regularly, you know, religious belief, a set of assertions taken on trust or faith, unverifiable and unfalsifiable, things you take as true simply because authority sez they’re true. And thou shalt not diverge, thou shalt adhere to orthodoxy on pain of expulsion or ostracism or worse.
And where have we seen this before? In civilizations in decline, like the Islamic world when the Enlightenment era took root. Said they at the time, we don’t want none of this enlightenment crap, nope, we don’t need none, we’ll just keep doin’ what we’ve been doin’. Yup, why do we need infidels tellin’ us what’s what?
Until that time it was a toss up as to what way would predominate, with the West on its way up, rediscovering antiquity, learning new ways of thinking, learning science and history and mathematics from the Hindu and Muslim world, shaking off Christian religious dogma and looking at the world as it is, not as the holy men and their books said it is, with the great Muslim cities still fat and rich from trade with the east and endowed with centuries of scholarship.
But the times they were a-changin’ and the glittering societies of the Middle East and elsewhere failed to take note. Same with China, slumbering in its self-satisfied conviction of its own superiority, barbarism beyond its borders, end of story. It failed to notice that up north, not that far north, there was a narrow body of water with tips of land practically touching, an entire continent a stone’s throw away, and below that continent yet another. Nope, no exploration for us thanks very much, nothing out there worth knowing about. And so the Chinese and Muslims bitch and moan about Western dominance.
It looks to me like the US falling into that same kind of cultural declinism, with freedom to think and speak and act severely curtailed, a sitting duck for tougher and more aggressive people. History may not repeat but it sure does rhyme.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY #2
We really do live in two complete separate worlds now. ya know, people contemporary to the Civil War wrote about similar circumstances where two sets of people were living in two realities and the impossibility of one side communicating with the other.
My Democratic friends and associates live in a reality where Trump has turned loose his army of white nationalists to burn down and loot cities. They tell me that Trump is a Russian puppet that is making billions off of his presidency while locking children in cages here at home. They tell me that his wife hates him and he had a body double of her made so that he could be seen in public with her. These are college educated NPR-listening “enlightened liberals”.
On the other side we have a Biden “crime family” that is controlled by China. We have Qanon where the elites do terrible things to children. We have a Deep State that wishes to sell us all out to a cabal of globalists that wish to lower our standard of living to that of Nigeria. They see the Democrats as Branch Covidians that purposely shut down the economy in order to hurt Trump and independent small businesses.
How can these two sides come together as Americans? Someone please tell me.
THE RISE OF CHRISTIAN NATIONALISM IN AMERICA
Or How to Legislate Evil and Punish the Poor
by Liz Theoharis
On August 26th, during the Republican National Convention, Vice President Mike Pence closed out his acceptance speech with a biblical sleight of hand. Speaking before a crowd at the Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore, he exclaimed, “Let’s fix our eyes on Old Glory and all she represents. Let’s fix our eyes on this land of heroes and let their courage inspire.” In doing so, he essentially rewrote a passage from the New Testament’s Book of Hebrews: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.”
There’s nothing new, of course, about an American politician melding religion and politics on the campaign trail. Still, Pence’s decision to replace Jesus with the Stars and Stripes raised eyebrows across a range of religious and political persuasions. Indeed, the melding of Old Glory and Christ provided the latest evidence of the rising influence of Christian nationalism in the age of Trump.
It’s no longer hard to find evidence of just how deeply Christian nationalism influences our politics and policymaking. During the pandemic, the Bible has repeatedly been used (and distorted) to justify Covid-19 denialism and government inaction, not to speak of outright repression. In late March, as cities were locking down and public health officials were recommending strict quarantine measures, one of Donald Trump’s first acts was to gather his followers at the White House for what was billed as a “National Day of Prayer” to give Americans the strength to press on through death and difficulty.
Later in the spring, protests against pandemic shutdowns, funded with dark money from the likes of the Koch brothers, demanded that states reopen for business and social distancing guidelines be loosened. (Forget about masking of any sort.) At them, printed protest signs said things like: “Even Pharaoh Freed Slaves in a Plague” and “Texas will not take the Mark of the Beast.” And even as faith communities struggled admirably to adjust to zoom worship services, as well as remote pastoral care and memorials, President Trump continued to fan the flames of religious division, declaring in-person worship “essential,” no matter that legal experts questioned his authority to do so.
And speaking of his version of Christian nationalism, no one should forget the June spectacle in Lafayette Square near the White House, when Trump had racial-justice protestors tear-gassed so he could stroll to nearby St. John’s Church and pose proudly on its steps displaying a borrowed bible. Though he flashed it to the photographers, who can doubt how little time he’s spent within its pages. (Selling those same pages is another matter entirely. After all, a Bible he signed in the wake of that Lafayette Square event is now on sale for nearly $40,000.)
The Battle for the Bible in American History
To understand how power is wielded in America by wealthy politicians and their coteries of extremists in 2020, you have to consider the role of religion in our national life. An epic battle for the Bible is now underway in a country that has been largely ceded to white evangelical Christian nationalists. Through a well-funded network of churches and nonprofits, universities, and think tanks, and with direct lines to the nation’s highest political officials, they’ve had carte-blanche to set the terms of what passes for religious debate in this country and dictate what morality even means in our society.
Under Trump, such religious nationalism has reached a fever pitch as a reactionary movement that includes technocratic billionaires, televangelists, and armed militias has taken root with a simple enough message: God loves white Christian America, favors small government and big business, and rewards individualism and entrepreneurship. Meanwhile, the poor, people of color, and immigrants are blamed for society’s problems even as the rich get richer in what’s still the wealthiest country in the history of the world.
The dangers posed by today’s Christian nationalists are all too real, but the battle for the Bible itself is not new in America. In the 1700s and 1800s, slaveholders quoted the book of Philemon and lines from St. Paul’s epistles to claim that slavery was ordained by God. They also ripped the pages of Exodus from bibles they gave to the enslaved.Â During the Gilded Age of the nineteenth century, churches and politicians alike preached a "prosperity gospel" that extolled the virtues of industrial capitalism.
Decades later, segregationists continued to use stray biblical verses to rubberstamp Jim Crow practices, while in the late 1970s the Moral Majority helped to mainstream a new generation of Christian extremists into national politics. In my own youth, I remember politicians quoting Thessalonians in the lead up to the passage of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act as proof that God believes in work-requirements for public assistance programs.
Students of religion and history know that, although such theological battles have often tipped disastrously toward the forces of violence, deprivation, and hate, Christian religious thinking has also been a key ingredient in positive social change in this country. Escaped slave Harriet “Moses” Tubman understood the Underground Railroad as a Christian project of liberation, while escaped slave Frederick Douglass fought for abolition through churches across the north in the pre-Civil War years. A century later, near the end of his life, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. explained how, to achieve his universal dream of justice, a beloved community of God would be built through a “freedom church of the poor.”
After all, in every chapter of American history, abolitionists, workers, labor organizers, civil rights leaders, and other representatives of the oppressed have struggled for a better nation not just in streets and workplaces, but in the pulpit, too. In the wreckage of the present Trumpian moment, with a fascistic, white nationalism increasingly ascendant, people of conscience would do well to follow suit.
The “Psychological Bird” of Bad Religion
In my book Always with Us? What Jesus Really Said About the Poor, I focus on a reality that has long preoccupied me: how, in this country, the Bible has so often been manipulated to obscure its potentially emancipatory power; in particular, the way in which what theologian Jim Wallis has called the most famous biblical passage on the poor (from the Gospel of Matthew) -- “the poor will be always with us” -- has been misused.
Since I was a young girl, scarcely a week has passed in which I haven’t heard someone quoting Matthew as an explanation for why poverty is eternal and its mitigation reserved at best for charity or philanthropy (but certainly not for government). The logic of such thinking runs through so many of our religious institutions including what’s now known as “evangelical Christianity,” but also our legislatures, courts, military, schools, and more. It hasn’t just shaped the minds of young Christians but has helped to spiritualize (and cement in place) poverty, while implicitly or even explicitly justifying ever greater inequality in this society.
Today, the idea that poverty is the result of bad behavior, laziness, or sin rather than decisions made by those with power is distinctly ascendant in Donald Trump’s and Mitch McConnell’s Washington. Biblical passages like that one in Matthew have become another ideological tool brandished by reactionaries and the wealthy to deflect attention from this country’s systemic failures.
Consider, for example, the historic development of what’s often known as the “Bible Belt” (or alternatively the “Poverty Belt”). It sweeps across the South, from North Carolina to Mississippi, Tennessee to Alabama, home to poor people of every race. It represents the deepest, most contiguous area of poverty in the United States made possible in part by heretical theology, biblical misinterpretation, and Christian nationalism.
The convergence of poverty and religion in the Bible Belt has a long history, stretching back to the earliest settler-colonists in the slave era. It echoed through the system of Jim Crow that had the region in its grip until the Civil Rights years and the modern political concept of “the solid South” (once Democratic, now Republican). Within its bounds lies a brutal legacy of divide and conquer that, to this day, politicizes the Bible by claiming that poverty results from sins against God and teaches poor white people in particular that, although they may themselves have little or nothing, they are at least "better" than people of color.
At the end of the bloody march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965, Martin Luther King explained the age-old politics of division in the region this way:
“If it may be said of the slavery era that the white man took the world and gave the Negro Jesus, then it may be said of the Reconstruction era that the southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow... And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide, he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the black man... And his children, too, learned to feed upon Jim Crow, their last outpost of psychological oblivion.”
That “psychological bird” was seasoned and cooked in a volatile mix of racist pseudo-science, economic orthodoxy, and bad religion. In fact, it retained its enormous power in large part by using the Bible and a version of Christianity to validate plunder and human suffering on a staggering scale. De jure Jim Crow may no longer exist, but its history haunts America to this day, and the Bible continues to be weaponized to validate anti-poor, white racist political power.
As jobs and opportunity continue to vanish in twenty-first-century America and churches stand among the last truly functional institutions in many communities, the Bible, however interpreted, still influences daily life for millions. How it’s understood and preached affects the political and moral direction of the country. Consider that those Bible Belt states -- where Christian nationalism (which regularly displays its own upside-down version of the Bible) now reigns supreme -- account for more than 193 electoral college votes and so will play a key role in determining the fate of Donald Trump and Mike Pence in November.
I had my own experience with that version of biblical and theological interpretation and its growing role in our national politics in June 2019 during a hearing of the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives. Its subject was poverty in America and the economic realities of struggling families. A racially and geographically diverse group of leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign (of which I’m the co-chair) were invited to testify on those realities. Alongside us that day were two Black pastors invited by Republican congressmen to stand as examples of how faith and hard work is the only recipe for a good and stable life for the impoverished.
We had come to present what we’ve called the Poor People’s Moral Budget, a study showing that the United States does have the money to end poverty, hunger, homelessness, and more, just not the political will to do so. In response, members of the committee turned to the same tired stereotypes about why so many of us in such a wealthy country are poor. Some cited the supposed failure of the 1960s War on Poverty as evidence that programs of social uplift just don’t work, while ignoring the dramatic way politicians had undercut those initiatives in the years that followed. Like those pastors, others replied with tales of their own success rising out of economic hardship via bootstrap individualism and they plugged Christian charity as the way to alleviate poverty. I listened to them all as they essentially promoted a heretical theology that claimed people suffer from poverty largely because they’re estranged from God and lack a deep enough faith in Jesus.
That day, the walls of that House committee room rang with empty words twisting what the Bible actually says about the poor. One Republican representative typically remarked that, although he was familiar with the Bible, he had never found anyplace in it “where Jesus tells Caesar to care for the poor.” Another all-too-typically suggested that Christian charity, not government-sponsored programs, is the key to alleviating poverty.
Someone less familiar with the arguments of such politicians might have been surprised to hear so many of them seeking theological cover. As a biblical scholar and a student of the history of social movements, I know well how religious texts actually instruct us to care for the poor and dispossessed. As a long-time organizer, I’ve learned that those in power now regularly, even desperately, seek to abuse and distort the liberating potential of our religious traditions.
Indeed, in response to that representative, Reverand William Barber, my Poor People’s Campaign co-chair, and I pointed out how interesting it was that he identified himself with Caesar (not necessarily the most flattering comparison imaginable, especially as biblical Christianity polemicizes against Caesar and the Roman empire). Then I detailed for him many of the passages and commandments in the Bible that urge us to organize society around the needs of the poor, forgive debts, pay workers a living wage, rather than favoring either the rich or “Caesar.” That, of course, is indeed the formula of the Trump era (where, in the last six pandemic months, the 643 wealthiest Americans raked in an extra $845 billion, raising their combined wealth by 29%). I also pointed out that the most effective poverty-reduction programs like Head Start are federally funded, neither philanthropic nor a matter of Christian charity.
Good News from the Poor
In the Poor People’s Campaign, we often start our organizing meetings by showing a series of color-coded maps of the country. The first has the states that have passed voter suppression laws since 2013; the next, those with the highest poverty rates; then, those that have not expanded Medicaid but have passed anti-LGBTQ laws. And so it goes. Our final map displays the states densest with self-identified evangelical Protestants.
I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that those maps overlap almost perfectly, chiefly in the Bible Belt, but also in the Midwest, the Mid-Atlantic states, and even in parts of the Northeast and West. The point is to show how inextricably connected the battle for voting rights, healthcare, and other critical resources is to the battle for the Bible. The stakes are measured in the health of the entire nation, because the same politicians who manipulate the Bible and the right to vote to win elections then pass immoral budgets and policies.
When Vice President Pence altered that line from the Book of Hebrews, he was charging headfirst onto that very blood-soaked battlefield with a desecrated Bible in hand. The question is: why should he and other Christian nationalists have the power to define Christianity? If they are so intent on “fixing their eyes on Old Glory,” shouldn’t they also fix their eyes on what Jesus actually said?
The Greek word evangelia, out of which “evangelical” comes, means bringing good news to those made poor by systems of exploitation. The Bible’s good news, also defined as gospel, talks again and again about captives being freed, slaves released, and all who are oppressed being taken care of. It’s said that were you to cut out every one of its pages that mentions poverty, the Bible would fall apart. And when you actually read the words on those pages, you see that the gospel doesn’t talk about the inevitability of poverty or the need for charity, but the responsibilities of the ruling authorities to all people and the possibility of abundance for all.
At a time when 43.5% of Americans are poor or one fire, storm, health-care crisis, pandemic, eviction, or job loss from poverty, it couldn’t be more important for Americans to begin to reckon with this reality and our moral obligation to end it. Instead, politicians pass voter suppression laws, kick kids off food programs, and allow the poisoning of our water, air, and land, while Christian nationalist religious leaders bless such policies and cherry-pick biblical verses to justify them as all-American. Consider such a reality not simply a matter of a religious but a political, economic, and moral crisis that, in the midst of a pandemic, is pushing this country ever closer to the brink of spiritual death.
If America is still worth saving, this is no longer a battle anyone should sit out.
(Liz Theoharis, a TomDispatch regular, is a theologian, ordained minister, and anti-poverty activist. Director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, she is the author of Always With Us? What Jesus Really Said About the Poor.)
THE MAIN PROBLEM in any democracy is that crowd-pleasers are generally brainless swine who can go out on a stage and whup their supporters into an orgiastic frenzy—then go back to the office and sell every one of the poor bastards down the tube for a nickel apiece.
— Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, 1972
MEMO OF THE AIR: GOOD NIGHT RADIO all night tonight!
Hi. Marco here. Deadline to email your writing for tonight's (Friday night's) MOTA show is a little early, around 6pm. After that, send it whenever it's ready, up to 7pm Friday next week, and I'll read it next week, then.
Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio is every Friday, 9pm to 5am on 107.7fm KNYO-LP Fort Bragg as well as there and anywhere else via http://airtime.knyo.org:8040/128 (If that shows up for you as plain text and not a link, just paste it into your browser. That's the regular link to listen to KNYO in real time.)
(Before the show, at 8:45, I'll be playing the first fifteen minutes of an interview between Rich Alcott and a man who is a mine of information on the subject of soldiers poisoned by radiation, who is also a soldier who was poisoned by radiation, so he made a project of collecting the real data.)
And any time of any day or night you can go to https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com and hear last week's show and shows before that. By Saturday night the recording of tonight's MOTA will also be there, in the latest post, right on top.
Also, at https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com there's a mysterious heavy pillowcase full of items of arguably educational value to rummage through until showtime, such as:
Australian Aboriginal choir sings Tom Waits' Make It Rain. Just wow. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2AgBRBNTbA
The barrel-and-rug event trials. https://www.bitsandpieces.us/2020/10/23/obese-olympic-gymnastic-trials/
And the entire Trump presidency edited down to 68 minutes by Vic Berger. news.avclub.com/how-far-can-you-make-it-into-vic-bergers-demented-68-mi-1845508840
— Marco McClean, firstname.lastname@example.org, https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com
GOING FULL ORWELL
by James Kunstler
Oscar Wilde observed that “life imitates art,” and there they were: the three grand poohbahs of social media, stone-facing the Senate Homeland Security Committee on their zoom screens like a trio of James Bond villains — Jack “Twitter” Dorsey, complete with sinister nose-ring and necromancer’s beard, Mark “Facebook” Zuckerberg, pasty and blank as a knish, and Sundar “Google” Pichai the Merciless. Only missing were the Persian cats in their laps.
They were on-board to answer how come their monstrous information engines were censoring the news so as to possibly influence a national election, and they offered the confabulated fantasy that their cancellation of the Biden Family influence-peddling story in The New York Post, and disabling the accounts of sundry un-Woketarian journalists, was actually a policy of “transparency.” With the election only days away, the subtext of their demeanor was a clear “Fuck you, you can’t do anything about it” to the American people.
Apparently so, but their insolence may be answered by the antitrust case lately teed up against them by the Department of Justice, especially if said election doesn’t go exactly the way they’ve attempted to engineer it. The rest of the Woke news media followed suit with the trio, of course, in an extraordinary affront to the public interest. The New York Times, CNN, and the rest of the gang completed their metamorphosis from a free press to Orwell’s memory hole, where reality goes to die.
But the Biden family grifting story has a life of its own, and the story is that the Democratic Party’s candidate for president would not survive a month in office before being dragged through some dreadful legal proceeding as a threat to national security, having sold himself to the rulers of several foreign countries, all too neatly documented to ignore.
For now, with the news media covering for him, Mr. Biden has managed to duck the story without refuting the authenticity of the evidence, namely, troves of genuine emails and texts between the principals of the various companies set up (in Delaware!) by his son, Hunter Biden, naming the former vice-president as an informed accomplice in schemes to sell his “services” to all comers. And he came pretty cheap, too, considering that the tens of millions proffered was mere walking-around-money to the CCP-connected Chinese billionaires, and others, who sought the deals. They even sent Hunter a hundred-large just “to buy a car.” (Did he get a Chevy Spark and blow the change up his nose, as was his wont, I wonder?)
The now infamous “Laptop from Hell” left behind brainlessly by Hunter in a Delaware repair shop apparently contains a parallel trove of photos and videos self-chronicling the scion’s sordid private life — sex, drugs, etc. — suggesting that he has set himself up as the perfect target for blackmailing operations. And goodness knows what Chinese intel on its own initiative recorded him doing in the hotels there (with amenities supplied) on his many visits to their land. Said laptop was also, it turns out, in the possession of the FBI as far back as the impeachment preliminaries in Adam Schiff’s House Intel Committee, fall of 2019. Since it was full of material counter-evidence about the issue at hand — the president’s phone call to Ukraine’s President Zelensky vis-a-vis the Biden family’s shady doings in that country — the question arises of how deep was the FBI’s complicity in the impeachment ruse?
Could FBI Director Christopher Wray not have known of the laptop’s existence when it came into the agency? I doubt it. Could Mr. Wray have concealed the information from Attorney General Barr? Yes, quite possibly. In the meantime, Mr. Barr has not said a word about the entire Biden pay-for-play / laptop extravaganza. I imagine he’s chewing the office furniture at Main Justice in a fury over it with the election pending, and his duty to avoid influencing the outcome. Mr. Trump has felt a little freer to share the wicked business with the public in his campaign appearances, setting the table for a banquet of consequences when the election is over.
If it can be gotten over, since the Democrats have made no secret of their elaborate plan to confound the results with post November 3 ballot harvesting and Lawfare shenanigans in the swing states — to be accompanied by riots staged by their Antifa and BLM shock troops. I think the idea is to provoke Mr. Trump to call out US troops to quell the riots, thereby opening him up to accusations of being a tyrant. I suspect the Dems will overplay their hand on that trick, since a sizable portion of the public that has not collectively lost its mind is good and goddam sick of riots, arson, destruction of property, and the looting capers that go with them. Mr. Trump has overcome every adversity thrown in his path for four years, and I believe he will get through this final tribulation, beep-beep. And then the games can begin in earnest.
Mr. Biden apparently changed his mind about “putting a lid” on the last week of his campaign and strayed out of his basement in what looks like a desperate effort to dispel the odium hanging over him. He might as well just paint a big “L” on his forehead. Thursday evening, he was onstage in Tampa, angry and fulminating to his usual sparse audience, when the skies opened. The audience peeled away in the pouring rain and so did Joe Biden after only nineteen minutes of bitter vituperation, the perfect picture of loserdom… Captain Queeg meets Willie Loman… without the charm.
(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon Page.)
HALLOWEEN SPECIAL: WOLF BOTHERS LITTLE RED