- Pleasant Weather
- Willits Temblors
- Vote Count
- Noyo Ice
- LakeCo Results
- 9 New Cases
- Vo Mo
- Drinking Game
- 128 Collision
- Quentin Bound
- Skunk Train
- B Holden
- Clare's Cafe
- Toddler Diddling
- McHugh Promotion
- Yesterday's Catch
- Oligarchs Rule
- Trump Reveal
- Marco Anniversary
- Pumpkin Moons
- Acorn Hunt
- Old FB
- Comfy Hat
- Albion Bridge
- Chile Terror
- Logging Days
- The Future
- Stay Calm
- Bond 50
- Bidin' My Time
RELATIVELY PLEASANT WEATHER will last into Thursday, before a strong cold front swings through Thursday night. Showers, accompanied by lower snow levels will last into Friday. Chilly and unsettled conditions will continue through the weekend. (NWS)
Tuesday, a 3.5 earthquake hit southeast of Willits at 9:41 a.m. This followed Monday’s rattler of 3.2 in roughly the same area at 2:22 p.m..
AS OF WEDNESDAY AT ABOUT MIDNIGHT, it’s pretty clear that the Democrats’ expectations of an overwhelming victory over Trump were somewhere between an exaggeration and self-delusion. It’s looking like the race for the Presidency will be closer than most observers thought and that it will come down to early voting but late counted votes in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, many of which are in areas with Democratic majorities. It seems unlikely that there will be a clear outcome by the time you read this. By midnight, oddsmakers were saying Trump’s odds of winning had gone up to around 70% as Biden failed to win several key battleground states in the upper midwest that he needed to win. Freshman social democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was well ahead of her Republican challenger in New York.
EVEN BEFORE RESULTS were in in the Presidential race, street clashes began being reported in Washington DC, New York, Philadelphia.
AND OF COURSE, it wasn’t long before Trump started his twitter blasts about the delayed vote count and Biden and so forth which you don’t need this website to find out about.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH, in what appears to be a record turnout so far, Mendo was going almost 3-1 for Biden in early results, about the same percentage that Congressman Huffman was getting over near-unknown Republican challenger Dale Mensing.
EARLY RETURNS FOR MENDO RACES
THE CLOSELY WATCHED WILLITS SALES TAX MEASURE which needed only a simple majority to impose a .75% sales tax on retail sales in Willits for police, street maintenance and sports was ahead by more than 2-1 out of about 3500 votes cast.
NO SURPRISES IN THE SUPERVISOR RACES.
Big Wine’s candidate Glenn McGourty was ahead of opponent Jon Kennedy by about 61% to 39% with about 3900 votes cast to replace retiring Carre Brown in the First District.
Maureen ‘Mo’ Mulheren was ahead of opponent Mari Rodin by almost as much with about 58% to about 42% with over 4200 votes cast to replace retiring John McCowen in the Second District.
(For comparison, the last time McCowen ran, unopposed, in 2016, he got about 3,000 votes. And that same year in 2016, Carre Brown got about 3400 votes to easily defeat Montana Podva who got about 1100 votes. So the fairly large early numbers for McGourty and Mulheren are not likely to change the outcome as additional votes are counted.)
IN THE RACE FOR TWO SEATS on the Ukiah City Council, of the seven candidates running, incumbents Doug Crane and Steve Scalmanini were ahead, but not by much over the five challengers.
THE THREE INCUMBENTS in the Anderson Valley Community Services District race were all significantly ahead of newcomer Stacey Rose who nevertheless got a creditable 11% of the almost 1500 votes cast.
LAKE COUNTY CLIFF HANGER
Lake County Registrar of Voters "preliminary results," 9:30 p.m.
PRESIDENT - Biden: 67.41%, Trump: 30.84%
U.S. Representative 3rd District - Garamendi: 65.31%, Hamilton: 34.69%
U.S. Representative 5th District - Thompson: 72.83%, Giblin: 27.17%
State Assembly 4th District - Aguiar-Curry: 66.96%, Nelson: 33.04%
Blue tide, as it were. Lake County Supervisorial District 5 looks like a
preponderance voted for Jessica Pyska, and the race for the open Clearlake
City Council is tight between Overton and Claffey.
City of Lakeport lead is Michael Green, architect of Lake County's
cannabis ordinance refinements.
Various school board seats, nothing surprising.
Very pleasant experience at my local polling place, in Upper Lake.
No sign of civil unrest anticipated by nationwide law enforcement
agencies, so far.
"Florida has been called for Trump; 75% lead in Az." per KPFZ's Herb
Gura. Commentary absolutely worthless, as usual.
Love from Upper Lake,
NINE MORE COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County on Tuesday, bringing total to 1188.
MO MULHEREN WRITES: "This is it. I announced 661 days ago that I was running for the Second District Supervisor seat. There are many reasons that I want to be a County Supervisor but the most important is to bring my dedication and connection to this community to this County elected position. The citizens of the Second District and the County deserve someone in that seat that is willing to do the work 24/7 and hear from every resident and work side by side with our community to come up with solutions. Will I still be as involved in the community if I’m not elected, of course. To be in a position to create policy change in areas that affect us all including housing development, protecting the environment and creating sustainable economic development for future generations is why I voted Mo and I hope you do too. #VoteMo #ConnectMendo #TheMoYouKnow"
OFFICIAL 2020 ELECTION NIGHT DRINKING GAME RULES
by Matt Taibbi
Finally, we’re here. After four agonizing years of the Trump Show — complete with boundless wing-nuttery from the White House and nonstop, migraine-inducing mass media tantrums — it all ends, we hope, tonight. In life, as in cult sci-fi/adventure thrillers starring Geneva’s own Christopher Lambert, winner takes all:
Unfortunately, there are good reasons to doubt we’ll see anyone’s head fully lopped off this evening. The enormous number of mail-in votes, coupled with a slate of conflicting state rules about when such votes are counted — added to a high likelihood of unpredictable logistical difficulties associated with the pandemic — make a delayed conclusion to the Trump-Biden electoral contest very possible.
Usually, high in-person turnout favors Democrats. This year, because so many Democrats voted early (and Republicans have been warned away from mail ballots), the situation will likely be reversed. This means we could very well have early results that look confusing, maybe even like a wipeout for Trump, when what we’re actually seeing is just in-person votes being counted faster than mail votes. We also could see opposite scenarios.
Overall, the likelihood is that Joe Biden will win, and comfortably, but the issue is when that result comes in. Imagine the chaos of the Iowa Democratic caucus, with all the attendant scarcely-believable explanations coming from officials and vote-counters, expanded to presidential scale. That’s the horror-movie scenario for this evening.
Because of the fear both sides have about the results, the quantity of media spin tonight is likely to be, as rule 7 below notes, “unprecedented.” Partisans from both red and blue camps will be prepping audiences for bad news in ways that deflect blame from their own consultant pals, and also planting seeds for arguments likely to be made in contested-result scenarios. Expect Republicans to tell tales of trucks of fake ballots shipped over the Rio Grande in burlap sacks, while Democrats might counter with photos of wheelchair-bound minority voters invited to exercise their democratic covenant at ad-hoc ballot stations re-located to the top of hundred-foot climbing walls.
Along with my partner in crime from Rolling Stone’s Useful Idiots podcast, Katie Halper (@kthalps), we’ll be following the results in a livestream, along with a few potential surprise guests. As usual, we’ll be playing a drinking game to help us medicate away the pain of having to watch cable news election coverage. You can follow here, beginning at about 8:00 p.m. tonight:
Drinking Game Rules
The main rule is implied: just start drinking and don’t stop for the next few years.
As for tonight specifically, here goes:
Drink for EVERY MENTION of:
1) “Red mirage”;
2) “Blue mirage”;
3) “Path to victory” or “route to victory”;
4) “Most important election of our lifetime”;
5) “Still too close to call”;
6) “Shy Trump supporter”;
8) “Firewall.” Double if this is accompanied by an awkward effort by an anchor to inoffensively characterize the minority voting bloc to which they’re ascribing monolithic voting tendencies;
9) “Neck and neck”;
10) “Broward County” or “Miami-Dade”;
11) “It could be a big night for (whatever)”;
12) “It all comes down to Pennyslvania.”
Drink EVERY TIME:
13) A commentator says “(something) is on the ballot tonight,” and that something is not the name of a candidate;
14) John King looks visibly aroused on the way to the Magic Wall;
15) A member of the media uses the word “we” to describe Democratic Party results;
16) A Republican accuses Democrats of stuffing ballots. Double if the alleged plot involves use of undocumented immigrants as sham voters;
17) A Democrat mentions voter suppression. Double if this is accompanied by a warning that this is the “only way” Trump could win;
18) Any commentator suggests Trump will not give up power if he loses;
19) Someone reports the possibility of results-delaying litigation over a new set of voting irregularities detected today;
20) A commentator reacts to a result by seriously wondering aloud if Russians are meddling;
21) There is video of Melania Trump looking a little too happy that her husband is losing;
22) Trump ups the ante on an outrageous lie about his opponents at the 11th hour, like that Biden has already written an executive order canceling free enterprise, or has decided to grant American citizenship to everyone in Bangladesh;
23) Biden says something incomprehensible, dozes off, or forgets whom he’s talking with in a TV appearance;
24) Someone cuts to: shot of boarded-up windows. Double when windows are actually broken. 25) Someone cries on set as results come in. Or, alternatively, does the political version of the Bill Simmons fist pump:
DO NOT POLITICS AND DRIVE. Hope no one starts shooting. See you tomorrow.
AV FIRE CHIEF ANDRES AVILA REPORTS: “We responded to a two vehicle traffic collision at the intersection of Philo-Greenwood Rd and Hwy 128 on Tuesday. A sedan travelling west bound on Highway 128 was slowing down to turn onto Greenwood Road when a truck travelling the same direction decided to pass. The pickup truck hit the car in the intersection as it started to make the turn. The driver of the truck was not injured but the driver of the sedan was transported to the Ukiah hospital for minor injuries. Both were reported to be locals.
JUST IN. Readers following the career of Joe Hart will want to know that Joe will soon board the southbound prisoner bus for San Quentin. Hart's been held since October in the Mendo County Jail but had his Mendo sentence doubled when he admitted to having a prior strike conviction.
DEJA VU: After expressing the now common frustration at the lack of significant progress on the Measure B Mental Health facilities and services initiative of 2017, the Supervisors voted to keep doing what they have been complaining about by putting off any direction to staff for another month after Project Manager Alyson Bailey assured them that she’d have “more information” about the costs of construction and operation of the major components of Measure B activity: The Psychiatric Health Facility, the Crisis Residential Treatment Facility, and the “Regional Training Center” in Redwood Valley. Supervisors Ted Williams and John Haschak, the Board’s Measure B ad hoc committee — posed a series of questions to Ms. Bailey regarding gaps and inconsistencies in her “Draft Strategic Plan” which the Board expects to be answered next month. Mental Health Director Jenine Miller said that a 16-bed PHF is “the most cost efficient” even though Mendo seldom has more than eight people in out of county facilities at any given time. She also said that she expects the entire PHF to be privately operated, since other PHFs in the state are privately operated, such as Mendo’s controversial former service provider Ortner Management Group (OMG!) in the Marysville area. Dr. Miller believes that a PHF can be operated without additional Measure B funding “if it’s managed properly” by making sure that clients are reimburseable before they enter and proper billing is done and paying patients are taken in from other regional counties. (Never mind that most of Mendo’s mentally ill are not reimburseable, i.e., not “severely mentally ill,” and thus will not be accepted or treated by such a PHF without significant additional and as yet unidentified funding.) The Board expressed some skepticism about this idea of self-financing, but didn’t really object. Instead, they directed Ms. Bailey to come back to the Board next month with better numbers — several pending requests for bids are due for responses soon — so that the Board can … Well, they seem to prefer prioritizing the PHF, the CRT and the training facility. Supervisor Carre Brown had no idea what to do other than her standard non-advice: “We just have to move forward” — meaning that there’s a good chance the Board will “move forward” in knee jerk fashion more out of frustration than practicality and rush into something that’s more in tune with other Measure B activity: Late, way too expensive, and too big.
MARSHALL NEWMAN wonders about this valley night spot.
Precursor to the Last Resort? I would guess the old Last Resort. I don't know of any other structure that might house this place.
I have no idea regarding its location - maybe in the building that was the Last Resort in the early 1960s?
PS. The ad for the Last Resort was in the Ukiah Daily Journal. Ukiah News was a header for the website.
— Marshall Newman
FORT BRAGG WOMAN CHARGED WITH SEX CRIMES AGAINST HER OWN TWO-YEAR-OLD
A review of the criminal complaint filed by the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office indicates 20-year-old Fort Bragg resident Lena Jade Reid will be facing charges for committing lewd and lascivious acts, producing child pornography, and subsequently distributing the material which depicts the exploitation of her own 2-year-old.
FORT BRAGG POLICE DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES the promotion of Officer Colin McHugh from Community Service Officer (CSO) to Police Officer effective Sunday November 1, 2020.
Officer McHugh was hired in March 2019 as a Community Service Officer for the department. A Community Service Officers provides support to the officers and the department, their primary function is transportation or prisoners to Ukiah, Animal Control, Abandoned Vehicles Abatement and many other time consuming duties.
Officer McHugh’s excellent performance as a Community Service Officer was recognized by police staff who recommended sending him to the police academy. March 2020 Officer McHugh was sent to the Santa Rosa Police Academy, for the next six months, with several interruptions from Covid and fires, he graduated and completed his training on October 23, 2020. It should be noted that Officer McHugh was top in his class academically as well as receiving the highest mark for scenario testing, one hundred percent rating.
On Monday November 2, 2020, the honorable City Clerk for the city of Fort Bragg June Lemos, swore into the position of Police Officer Colin McHugh, his wife Tristin pinned the police shield number 56 on her husband. In attendance at the ceremony was Fort Bragg Police Department staff, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department personnel, City Hall staff, City Manager-Tabatha Miller and Vice Mayor Bernie Norvell.
Officer McHugh and his wife Tristin have resided in the community for several years. Tristin is involved in preserving the waters off the coast as a Marine Ecologist, and has been recognized for her work in several recent articles.
CATCH OF THE DAY, November 3, 2020
ROBERT BERG, Ukiah. Mandatory supervision sentencing.
DARCY CROOK, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol. (Booked last week but still no booking photo.)
CHRISTOPHER FRANCE, Willits. Burglary, controlled substance, paraphernalia, conspiracy, evasion.
ANDRES GONZALEZ, Sacramento/Ukiah. Stolen property, suspended license (for DUI), failure to appear.
VIKTORIA LADD, Clearlake/Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, resisting.
BRANDON LANGENDERFER, Laytonville. Burgarly, conspiracy, county parole violation.
ANGELO MARTINEZ, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. Burglary, controlled substance, conspiracy, failure to appear, probation revocation.
MIRANDA MULLINS, Willits. Probation revocation.
JUSTINE NORTON, Caspar, Burglary, conspiracy.
RICKY RENICK, Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
How does Joe get inaugurated when he and his family are up to their nuts in Chinese money, not to mention Ukrainian moolah, and who knows what else?
How does the American investigative and intel apparatus avert its gaze when the Potus-elect looks to be thoroughly compromised by way of these associations?
Well, in the first place, the Davos Class and the Donor Class, that is to say, that handful of billionaires that own the outstanding stock of the Fortune 500, are all in it together with the Bidens. The men in Beijing have them all by the short ones because of the idiotic misapplication of some farcical economic theory cooked up to justify the exportation of the guts of America’s industrial might to China.
It helps to know who ultimately gives the orders. I would say that it’s a matter of serene indifference to Beijing which American puppet sits in the Oval Office so long as Chinese oligarch interests aren’t threatened and the same with the Chinese Communist Party. Trump threatened the status quo. He stirred things up. So, can’t have Trump. That much is obvious.
What about Biden? No worries about Biden. Biden will rule unmolested because the Chinese want it so, because American oligarchs have to keep Beijing happy to keep their fortunes intact, because the American Deep State will ensure it, having bamboozled itself through generations-long indoctrination about how things are and how things have to be, and bedazzled itself about American supremacy and their own grandeur at the center of it.
But mostly it’s about money and power. The oligarchs fund American politicians. In turn, American politicians enact laws that extract money from ordinary citizens by way of taxes, and with this money they hire soldiers and cops and spies to safeguard both the oligarchs and themselves. It’s a symbiotic relationship, something like Taibbi’s vampire squid, sucking America dry. That they work against their own interests and America’s national interests seems never to have occurred to them.
And the voters? What’s the matter with Kansas? Nothing wrong with Kansas, Kansas woke up and isn’t buying Republican bullshit anymore as K-dog so aptly put it. I don’t know what to say about people who vote Democrat, especially about non-white supporters. What’s the matter with them? Don’t they know the Democrats work against their interests?
TRUMP AND TRUMPISM
Trump’s presidency has cut through the moral and political fault lines of America like nothing I have seen for the nearly half a century I have lived in this country.... It will take generations and a whole new literary prose drastically different from the current banality of late-night shows and compromised journalism to come to terms with what Trump has revealed about these United States of America. Americans will have to produce a genius novelist like James Joyce, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, or Chinua Achebe, a new filmmaker like Stanley Kubrick or Costa-Gavras, a poet like WB Yeats or Mahmoud Darwish, an artist like Diego Rivera to come anywhere near to understanding what the Trump presidency has revealed about them.
MARCO, A DAY IN THE LIFE OF...
Juanita's and my wedding anniversary is the day after election day. It was 32 years ago, on the roof of the Griffith Observatory.
Today we went to Santa Rosa to return the Halloween costume she rented for work. The costume store had a bucket of leftover candy, so I brought some out to the homeless man sitting on the sidewalk, but he didn't want it. I said, "You sure?" He was sure.
Then to the bank to get quarters to do laundry, because you can't buy a roll of quarters while checking out of a grocery store anymore. There was a long line to stand in to wait to go in, and a very young and nervous-looking rent-a-cop. Juanita sat in the car and read her book.
When I got inside and got the quarters I asked the bank teller woman why the bank was boarded up all around with plywood. She said, "It's for the election violence tomorrow." Oh. I see. Thank you.
I just saw this and want you to see it. It's a man playing piano for tips out on the street in Barcelona, Spain and a riot develops around and past him -- nothing to do with him, just right place, right time -- with explosions and danger and police vehicles and bemused remarks and everything, and he just keeps calmly playing the piano, and his little audience appreciates it. Which person in the video do you identify with? https://tinyurl.com/ZenPianistInPoliceRiot
— Marco McClean
HALLOWEEN DISPLAY WINNER
GIFTS OF THE EARTH: Acorn hunt in Grace Hudson's Wild Gardens
On Saturday, November 7, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Grace Hudson Museum will host "All About Acorns in the Garden," a free outdoor event. Visitors will learn about the stories and traditions of the native Pomo peoples, the original inhabitants of the greater Ukiah Valley, around this important local food. Self-guided materials will be available for finding acorns while the Wild Gardens, an outdoor educational environment focusing on native Northern California plants and habitats, can be explored.
Entrance to the Wild Gardens requires that all visitors wear a mask, and appropriate social distancing must be maintained. There is a limit of 45 people admitted at any one time.
The Grace Hudson Museum is located at 431 S. Main St. in Ukiah. For more information, visit www.gracehudsonmuseum.org.
ON THE HEAD, ABOVE THE FOLD!
By now it’s all over except the shouting, and maybe the shooting by the Proud Boys. I’m glad I won’t be living much longer. I don’t wanna see my country go down the drain, and our democracy replaced by something worse.
I found this gift for you in a thrift store. Why did I think of you when I saw it? Let me count the ways! Wear it in good health, as they say, and I hope you will pose wearing it and take a picture and put it on your front page, above the fold!
Adios for now, be well, and stay joyful, even tho you’ve considered the facts.
I sign off with great respect and admiration and thanks for so many years of great reading…
Enclosed: One commercially packaged tin foil hat, “not just for nuts” (with comfy felt lining).
VICTOR PEÑA’S ODYSSEY
by Forrest Hylton
On 1 October, one of Medellín’s leading radical public intellectuals, historians and humanists, Campo Elías Galindo, was tortured and murdered in his apartment. There was blood everywhere. The neo-fascists who killed him burned a book on his chest to make their point. During a meeting in the Parque del Periodista on 8 October, organised by the Unión Patriotica to honour his legacy, there was an explosion nearby. The police ruled it an accident: no bomb was involved, they said, just a gas leak.
The original UP, founded by the Farc and the Colombian Communist Party in 1986, was all but wiped out by 1991, the year the new Constitution was passed, with somewhere between 3500 and 5000 militants murdered or disappeared. Today the UP consists of a tiny, courageous minority who are being hunted down and eliminated again.
One of the people in the park was Heidy Elizabeth Ocampo Granadas, a member of the UP and of the Asociación de Despedidos de las Empresas Publicas de Medellín, the union that represents three hundred cleaners fired from the mayor’s office in late September. The following day she disappeared. She was found dead on a farm in Copacabana, just outside Medellín, on 17 October.
I didn’t know Heidy Elizabeth, and I hardly knew Campo Elías. He was a professor at the Universidad de Antioquia, across the river from my university. But we had been introduced at one of the dozens of marches during the student strikes of 2018-19, and I remember him from the general strike of November 2019. He was a regional leader of Senator Gustavo Petro’s remarkably successful Colombia Humana campaign, which pulled in 42 per cent of the national vote in 2018 – no left-wing party in Colombia had ever obtained more than single digits before. A colleague of mine marched with him frequently, exchanging ideas and views about the city and the world, talking about plans for research and writing.
(As foreigners, my colleague and I are fortunate: we are both exiled in Europe, along with Sara Fernández, my former neighbour and the secretary of the Asociación de Profesores at the University of Antioquia, who was nearly murdered in her bed in March.)
One of Campo Elías’s last political acts was a denunciation on Twitter of the Ituango dam, a public-private mega-project mired in corruption. Through his teaching, scholarship, writing and activism, Campo Elías hit the most delicate political nerve in Antioquia, Colombia’s most populous and wealthiest department. It would be revealing of the region’s power structure to know who, exactly, gave the order to murder him, and who was responsible for carrying it out. The motive is not in question.
On 20 October, Gustavo Herrera, the leader of the Colombia Humana campaign in Cauca in south-west Colombia (Medellín is in the north-west), was murdered by hitmen on a motorcycle on the road from Popayán to Puracé. The list of murders and massacres will go on, with ultra-conservative Antioquia at the top, and the more radical democratic Cauca not far behind.
Cauca is in the vanguard of Colombia’s radical politics not least because of the strength, resilience and initiative of the Nasa people. On 21 October, their minga, or mass march, made it to the Plaza Bolívar in Bogotá, and helped trigger mass marches by students – currently Colombia’s largest urban social movement – as well as trade unionists, whose numbers, like teachers’, but unlike students’, have been much reduced by state and paramilitary terror as well as the neoliberal political economy.
In Antioquia and Córdoba, the possibilities for indigenous collective action and radical democratic coalitions are reduced by the concentration of terror: this is where narco-paramilitarism was born. Displaced by the paramilitary presence in his hometown of Tuchín, Córdoba, north-east of Medellín, Victor Peña founded the Zenú Indigenous Council in Medellín to fight for those who have left or been forced off their resguardos and therefore cease to exist as Indigenous people for the government. His job as an urban cacique is to help people, mainly single mothers, navigate the turbulent waters of state and private bureaucracies: health, employment, housing and education. During the pandemic, we have worked together closely to get food, masks and hand gel to Zenú people, especially women and children, in Medellín and Tuchín, because everything in Tuchín costs double.
Victor and his brothers recently buried their mother and grandmother; they had to borrow money for coffins and for Victor to get home and back. Victor’s nieces and nephews were also sick with Covid-19, and needed medicine sent from Medellín. Victor’s younger brother then got the disease and was hospitalised, so Victor had to return to Tuchín yet again to fight for his right to healthcare. Paramilitaries control the health sector up and down the Caribbean coast, as the Lancet has reported; it is one of their most lucrative rackets. The doctor wanted to overbill, but Victor prevailed and got his brother out of the hospital without having to pay exorbitant fees, and then returned to Medellín in fear.
When his brother was hospitalised again last month, Victor was afraid of what might be happening to him. The doctors initially said it was Covid-19 but then test results showed it was pneumonia. They were going to put him on a respirator anyway before Victor got him out again, knowing the doctors were looking to maximise costs. This time he denounced them at the Ombudsman’s Office. Knowing what he’d done would get back to the narco-paramilitaries, Victor slept outdoors in an undisclosed location.
The following day, 24 October, they came looking for him, trying to find out where he was staying. They followed his sister-in-law all day, and patrolled the streets of the town on motorcycles. The Zenú indigenous guard, of which Victor has been a member for 17 years and a cacique for one year, with recognised police powers in Indigenous territory according to the 1991 Constitution, told him he would have to co-ordinate with them to make it out of Tuchín alive.
For three days and nights, Victor was on the run, surviving on a homemade sugar loaf (panela) and water, and walking untrodden mountain paths to the nearest town, Caucasia. Exhausted, he slipped and fell on a rock, badly injuring his shin and unable to staunch the bleeding. Barely able to continue, he stopped for food and shelter at a hut belonging to Zenú people he did not know, fearing that they might report his presence to paramilitaries for a small reward out of economic desperation.
Still on foot, he took to the nearest highway and tried to find a driver to take him to a hospital in Medellín, then got stopped at an ELN checkpoint in Cáceres. The ELN didn’t negotiate with the government or demobilise as the Farc did, but it doesn’t enjoy a monopoly, since dissident Farc factions are also active there. Like Caucasia, Cáceres is one of Antioquia’s most violently disputed areas, with some of its highest levels of homicide. Both are located in the lowlands of the Lower Cauca River, and serve as transit points for cocaine made in the highlands and headed for export through Antioquia, Córdoba and Sucre on the paramilitary-controlled Caribbean Coast.
Seeing Victor’s injury, the ELN soldiers assumed he was a paramilitary, but he talked his way out of it, and made it to the hospital in Medellín with about 12 hours to spare before his leg would have to have been amputated. He spent two nights and days there after doctors removed the infected flesh from his shin, and is now at home.
Victor recently helped launch Medellín’s first Inter-Ethnic Working Group in co-ordination with representatives from the Wayúu, Embera and Nasa peoples, as well as smaller indigenous groups including the Inga, Nutabe, Chibcariwak, Kichwa and Qullasingas Pastos. He says he is eager to get back to the work of co-operation.
(London Review of Books)
NOVEMBER 4, 2020: THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE
by Jonah Raskin
Whatever the outcome on Tuesday, November 3, the next day, November 4, will be the first day of the rest of my life and a day of reckoning. Maybe it will also be the first day of the rest of your life. I know, too, that the outcome might not be decided by November 4.
In the days and weeks ahead, I imagine that I will either breathe a sigh of relief or else take deep breaths and prepare for four more years of Donald Trump, the Republican faithful, the Proud Boys and more protests, marches and outrage. November 4th will also be like almost any other day. I will get up, take my meds, make breakfast, check my messages and get to work.
No matter who wins, nothing big on the horizon will change immediately. The police will go on shooting Black people, drones will kill long distance, gamblers will lose money in Las Vegas and the temperature of the air and the water will keep on rising. It’s too late to buy guns and form militia or stockpile suicide pills. There’s no place on the planet where one can run to and hide from civil wars, drug wars, cold wars and hot wars. They’re almost everywhere, and borders are more difficult to cross then ever before. In 1964 I escaped to England. That option no longer exists.
No amount of money can protect the wealthy from greenhouse gasses, cancer and Covid-19, though lots of money may provide better medical treatment than little or no money. Trump has had the kind of health care he wants to deny everyone else.
We’re all in this together, though we’re not all in the same boat. If you’re white and male and wealthy you… You can fill in the rest of the sentence.
I remember emailing a friend after George Bush became president in 2001 and wondered about my options. “Stay the course,” the friend told me. I’ve been doing the same ever since. I expect I’ll do the same in the days after Election Day 2020, though I will want to confer with friends and family and ask, “What’s to be done?”
I never thought I’d be turning to Lenin, at this juncture of my life, but here I am doing just that. In his 1901 pamphlet “What is to be Done?: Burning Questions of Our Movement,” Lenin argued that “class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from outside the economic struggle. The sphere from which alone it is possible to obtain this knowledge is the sphere of relationships (of all classes and strata) to the state and the government, the sphere of the interrelations between all classes.” That sounds about right, though I would add, the sphere of the relationships between all genders and sexes and ethnic groups. We’ll need to go out and about, talk to friends as well as enemies and those in the middle.
The future will not be a time to shut down, barricade oneself in a room and take vows of silence, though I might want to take a day or two or even a week off, regroup and wonder what is to be done in the decade ahead that sad to say doesn’t look promising for life on planet Earth. It will take bravery to stray from comfort zones, but it seems more necessary than ever before. I have to remind myself that I am not alone. Neither are you. This is just the beginning.
(Jonah Raskin is the author of For The Hell of It: The Life and Times of Abbie Hoffman and American Scream: Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ and the Making of the Beat Generation.)
THE FIRST 50 YEARS OF JAMES BOND
by Alexander Cockburn
The most successful saga in postwar popular culture got off to a conscientious start after breakfast on a tropical morning in Jamaica early in 1952. Ian Fleming, forty-three years old and ten weeks away from his first and last marriage, knocked out about 2,000 words on his Imperial portable claiming (falsely) that he was just passing time while his bride elect, Anne Rothermere, painted landscapes in the garden. In fact Fleming had been planning to write a spy thriller for years and he kept up the regimen of 2,000 daily words until, two months later, he was done, with Commander James Bond recovering from a near lethal attack on his testicles from Le Chiffre’s carpet beater, Le Chiffre finished off by a Russian, Vesper Lynd dead by her own hand, and a major addition to the world’s cultural and political furniture under way.
On 16 January, 1962, ten years to the day after Fleming had typed those first words of Casino Royale (‘The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning’) filming began on Dr. No at Palisadoes airport in Jamaica, with the British Secret Service and the CIA duly represented by Sean Connery and Jack Lord. Fleming lived long enough to see only two of the Bond films, Dr. No and From Russia With Love, before dying in August, 1964 of a heart attack helped along by his seventy or so Morland’s Specials.
He has much to answer for. Without Fleming we would have had no OSS, hence no CIA. The cold war would have ended in the early 1960s. We would have had no Vietnam, no Nixon, no Reagan and no Star Wars.
Let those dubious of such assertions study the evidence. It was Fleming, assistant to the director of British naval intelligence during the Second World War, who visited Washington DC in 1941 and wrote a long memo of advice for General ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan, President Roosevelt’s Co-ordinator of Information, whose duties included the collection of intelligence and the planning of various covert offensive operations. According to Ivar Bryce, a lifelong friend of Fleming’s who was working at the time for Sir William Stephenson, the director of Britain’s intelligence operations in the Americas, ‘Ian wrote out the charter for the COI at General Donovan’s request … He wrote it as a sort of imaginary exercise describing in detail all the arrangements necessary for financing, paying, organizing, controlling, and training a secret service in a country which had never had one before.’
Fleming’s memo was dashed down in long-hand over two days in the British Embassy with the diligence later exhibited in his imaginative stints after breakfast in Jamaica. It impressed Donovan who gave him a .38 Police Positive Colt inscribed with the words ‘For Special Services’ and went on to build the COI which later evolved into the OSS and later still into the CIA.
So, you see, it was all Fleming’s fault. He had a riotous imagination utterly unsuited to serious intelligence collection and analysis. The offices of the British Admiralty often rang with laughter at his mad schemes. It was Fleming who suggested that British sailors be entombed in a giant lump of concrete off Dieppe, from which they could keep watch on Dieppe through periscopes. It was Fleming who proposed to send a cruiser into Nazi waters with a transmitter beamed to the German Navy’s wave-length which would, in his words, ‘keep up a torrent of abuse, challenging the German naval commanders by name to come out and do something about it. No sailor likes to be accused of cowardice, and Germans are always particularly touchy.’
Fortified by such boyish fantasies, the officers of OSS never wrought much damage to the foe, but, from Donovan and his subordinate Allen Dulles downwards, learned to exploit romantic public fantasies of what a secret service should be. Thus they ensured their survival, if not in the field then in the crucial bureaucratic battlegrounds of Washington.
At the end of the war the future of the OSS hung in the balance. Alert to the importance of publicity for their supposedly secret organization, Donovan and Dulles lent every assistance to Hollywood producers racing to be first in the theaters with an OSS movie. Paramount’s man in this race was Richard Maibaum, who, with Alan Ladd produced “OSS”. Donovan’s aid was later responsible for turning the Bond novels into film scripts. Maibaum recently recalled that ‘before we got done we had literally about ten technical agents all telling us marvelous stories of what had happened to them all over the world which we incorporated into the plot. There were foreshadowings of things in the Bond films, – the pipe that was a gun, and other gadgets. There were some things we couldn’t use, such as foul smelling stuff like an enormous fart that the OSS agents used to spray on people they wished to discredit, and thus cause them to be socially humiliated It was called Who, Me? We could never get it in, because the Johnson office would never let us use it.’
Soon the postwar audiences were enjoying Maibaum’s OSS along with Cloak and Dagger from Warner’s and 13, Rue Madeleine from Twentieth-Century Fox. This spy hype helped the OSS resist bureaucratic extinction and instead metastasize into the CIA.
Having engendered the OSS, Fleming now began to lure Anthony Eden down the path of fantasy. Like many in the small but enthusiastic fan club for Fleming’s early thrillers, Sir Anthony Eden rejoiced that in Fleming’s pages, if not in the real world, a Briton was capable of decisive, ruthless action. Eden, as prime minister, resolved that the fortunes of 007 would be reflected in bold deeds, undertaken by himself. In concert with France and Israel he invaded Egypt in 1956. He had not studied the works of his friend with sufficient care. Bond and his master, M, placed the highest priority upon acting at all times with the approval of the United States. In the case of Suez, President Eisenhower said the invasion had to stop and it did. Twelve days later Eden had an attack of what his spokesman called ‘severe overstrain’ and his doctors urged him to spend a few weeks in absolute seclusion and repose.
Once again Eden was overwhelmed by the fantasies of his friend. After the war Fleming had bought a plot of land on Jamaica’s North Shore and built a small house on it. To acquaintances trembling with cold in English winters Fleming would body forth ‘Goldeneye’, his Caribbean paradise. In the crisis, seeking rest, Eden and his wife decided to go to Goldeneye. Fleming was delighted, since it raised the rental value of the place and he was badly in need of cash. But for the Edens the trip was unfortunate. The quarters were unalluring. Gazing into the rafters of Goldeneye, the prime minister, already suffering bouts of paranoia, fancied he saw rats. He was right. He consumed days chasing them in the company of his two body-guards. Finally, harrowed by lack of sleep, broken in health, he returned to London, announced he was ‘fit to resume my duties’ and resigned three weeks later.
In 1958, Fleming wrote Dr No, which advanced the novel notion that Cuba, as the local representative of the international Communist conspiracy, had perfected a reactor-based instrument capable of sabotaging US missile tests, thus explaining the Soviets’ apparent advantage in space technology, as evidenced by the launching of the Sputnik. Having proposed a fictional Caribbean missile crisis, Fleming followed up in person. In the spring of 1960 he was taken to dinner at the Washington home of Senator and Democratic presidential candidate-elect Jack Kennedy. The conversation turned to the problem of Castro. How should he be dealt with? Fleming’s imagination sprang into action. As Fleming’s biographer, John Pierson, reported the conversation, he told the assembled company, which included a CIA man called John Bross, that the United States should send planes over Cuba dropping pamphlets, with the compliments of the Soviet Union, to the effect that owing to American atom bomb tests the atmosphere over the island had become radioactive; that radioactivity is held longest in beards; and that radioactivity makes men impotent. As a consequence the Cubans would shave off their beards, and without bearded Cubans there would be no revolution.
Everyone, including Senator Kennedy, laughed at the scheme. The next day Allen Dulles, director of the CIA, telephoned a friend of Fleming to express regrets that he had not been able to listen to Fleming’s plans in person. Within two years the Kennedy brothers along with Alien Dulles, director of the CIA, were hiring gangsters to help in either the murder or humiliation of Castro, with the latter being attempted by a dust which would cause his beard to fall out. The subculture of sabotage andassination coaxed into being by the Kennedys finally, on November 22, 1963, turned back on the President.
Just as Eden helped raise the real estate value of Goldeneye, so did President Kennedy augment the fortunes of the fantasist. On 17 March, an article by Hugh Sidey in Life announced that President Kennedy could read at a rate of 1,200 words a minute and had ten favorite books. From Russia With Love was ninth, just ahead of Stendhal’s The Red and the Black.
Bond became the embodiment of western discourse on the Cold War. The men who would later construct the Reaganite view of the universe turned time and again to their Bond for edification. From him they learned that the Russians use Bulgarians as “proxies” and thus the legend of the KGB-Bulgarian plot to kill the Pope was born. They watched Thunderball and conceived that terrorists, probably Libyans, would steal atomic bombs and attack American cities. They worried about germ warfare when they saw On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and about weather modificationwhen they saw The Man With the Golden Gun. But it was the lasers in Diamonds Are Forever, along with the space station in Moonraker that made the deepest impact. Could missiles be destroyed in space? Could there be such a thing as a space shield? To hand was a Bond sequel by John Gardner called For Special Services in which the villain announces on page 222 that -The Particle Beam once operational – will prevent any country from launching a conventional [sic] nuclear attack. Particle Beam means absolute neutralisation.- On March 23, 1983 President Reagan proposed a space-based defense system, known as SDI, which would use lasers and particle beams. Star Wars was born.
Bond was in poor ideological shape at the beginning, running badly to seed in a way that would have aroused the contempt of his fictional antecedent, the fascist Captain Bulldog Drummond. In an exchange in Casino Royale with the French agent Mathis, Bond unburdens himself of the following: “The villains and heroes all get mixed up. Of course … patriotism comes along and makes it seem fairly all right, but this country-right-or-wrong business is getting a little out of date. Today we are fighting communism. Okay. If I’d been alive fifty years ago, the brand of conservatism we have today would have been damn near called communism, and we should have been told to go and fight that.’
It didn’t take too long for Bond to straighten himself out and declare unending war on evil in the manner prescribed by Mathis. As Maibaum puts it, ‘the basic success of Bond is lan Fleming’s James Bond syndrome: a ruthless killer who is also St George of England, a modern day combination of morality and immorality. In the age of the sick joke it clicked.’
Of course the Bond of the books was a bit of a sicko, held together mostly by his sanction from the state: licensed to kill. He could never keep any relationship together, and if Vesper Lynd hadn’t done herself in with a handful of Nembutals before they got married she probably would have got around to it in the end. What a prissy old autocrat of the breakfast table he would have been, howling for his perfectly brown egg, boiled for three and a third minutes and then put in its Minton cup, next to the Queen Anne coffee pot and the Cooper’s Vintage Oxford marmalade!
There was something a bit common too in all this insistence on the very best, as though Bond knew that in the end he was, as the elegant Dr No put it in Maibaum’s line in the movie, ‘nothing but a stupid policeman,’ on hire to the ruling class. Hence the great scene in From Russia With Love, when the class impostor Bond, played by a working-class boy from Edinburgh with a Scots burr in his voice, comes up against the other class impostor and psychopath Red Grant, played by Robert Shaw. ‘Red wine with fish,’ says Connery, ‘I should have known.’ ‘I may take red wine with fish,’ Shaw gg hisses viciously, ‘but you’re the one on your knees now.’
Bond was in urgent need of a shrink. Fleming himself had the good fortune to be cared for in his troubled teens at Kitzbuhel in Switzerland by a couple called Forbes-Dennis, who were much influenced by Alfred Adler. Mrs Forbes Dennis, who wrote under the name Phyllis Bottome, thought the young Fleming proof of Adler’s theories, his impressive elder |g brother Peter being the Adlerian Gegenspieler. ‘The Gegenspieler; wrote Bottome in her book on Adler, ‘is a contemporary brother or sister by whom the child felt dethroned … in almost any intimate relationship that follows, the child as he develops into the man will build up the same perpetual antagonism between himself and any beloved person.’ The ^ subject, said Adler, pushes aside the world by a mechanism consisting of ‘hypersensitiveness and intolerance … the neurotic man employs a number of devices for enabling him to side-step the demands of reality.’
If Adler had lived long enough to visit Pinewood in 1982 when they were making Octopussy and Superman III he would have surely felt vindicated. Somewhere along the line, in their post-imperial fantasy life, the British got muddled about secrets and spying and sex and identity and the confusion has been causing them endless trouble ever since. On a one-week visit years ago to England I found the newspaper headlines were replete with spy and sex scandals. The Thatcher government was claiming that national security had been ‘compromised,’ by an article about a British spy satel¬ lite.
Another story concerned Mrs Payne, a woman on trial for running prostitutes, about whom Terry Jones, of the Monty Python crew, has produced a film. According to the account in The Independent, a tall man who dressed as a French maid at Cynthia Payne’s parties told yesterday how he was ‘touched up’ by a man he later learned was a ‘boisterous, tall and very fat’ undercover policeman. Keith Savage, with short cropped hair and a Geordie accent, told a jury that the bearded officer put his hand up his skirt and fondled his bottom. ‘I was a bit upset about the police bursting in and I thought this man was trying to console me. But he got a bit overfriendly … I think he had a motive of a sexual nature.’ Another policeman, he claimed, was dressed effeminately wearing eye make-up and a monocle.
* * *
The titular villains in the Bond books are always grotesques. Le Chiffre, in Casino Royale, set the tone, weighing in at 252 pounds at a height of 5’8″, with his ‘small, rather feminine mouth’, small hairy hands, small feet, small ears ‘with large lobes, indicating some Jewish blood’, ‘soft and even’ voice and white showing all round the iris of each eye, ‘large sexual appetites’ and ‘flagellant’ tastes. This, in admittedly baroque form, was our old friend the Father Figure, as evinced in the scene where Le Chiffre goes to work on Bond’s balls with the carpet beater and promises to chop them off with a carving knife.
Fleming inaugurates the torture scene thus: ‘”My dear boy”–Le Chiffre spoke like a father–”the game of Red Indians is over, quite over. You have stumbled by mischance into a game for grown-ups, and you have already found it a painful experience. You are not equipped, my dear boy, to play games with adults, and it was very foolish of your nanny in London to have sent you out here with your spade and bucket.’” But when Bond, manhood spared by the Russian executioner who dispatches Le Chiffre, recovers in hospital and then prepares–with Vesper Lynd’s help–to check that all physical systems are in working order, he discovers that she too is a villain.
This is less surprising when we realise that Bond’s women are often men, thinly disguised. This is progress from Buchan and Drummond where they were often horses. Vesper is introduced with the news that ‘her eyes were wide apart and deep blue and they gazed candidly back at Bond with a touch of ironical disinterest which, to his annoyance, he found he would like to shatter, roughly. Her skin was lightly suntanned and bore no trace of make-up except on her mouth which was wide and sensual. … the general impression of restraint in her appearance and movements was carried even to her fingernails, which wer unpainted and cut short.
Of course there was dutiful mention of Vesper’s “fine” breasts but Fleming does not seem to have been too interested in them. Four years later in From Russia With Love, Fleming scurries past Tatiana Romanova’s breasts with a mumbled “faultless” before assuming a hotly didactic tone on the matter of her ass: “A purist would have disapproved of her behind. Its muscles were so hardened with exercise that it had lost the smooth downward feminine sweep, and now, round at the back and flat and hard at the sides, it jutted like a man’s. A year later, after publication of Dr No Noel Coward wrote to Fleming, saying that he was slightly shocked by the lascivious announcement that Honeychile’s bottom was like a boy’s. “I know that we are all becoming progressively more broadminded nowadays but really, old chap, what could you have been thinking of?”
Fleming didn’t address the point in his response, but there is an answer in one of his notebooks from the thirties, a period when he looked, in one description, like someone who had walked out of the pages of The Romantic Agony: ‘Some women respond to the whip, some to the kiss. Most of them like a mixture of both, but none of them answer to the mind alone, to the intellectual demand, unless they are men dressed as women_ For Bond there were father figures lurking behind every shrub none more imposing than old M, with his damnably blue eyes, whom Bond tries kill in an Oedipal spasm at the start of OHMS. But here too we find that ambiguity discovered by the very fat policeman when he slipped his hand up Savage’s skirt. Fleming’s father was killed in the war when he was a boy. The dominant figure in lan’s life was his formidable mother Mrs Val. Like Holmes and Moriarty locked together over the Reichenbach Falls, motherand son maintained vigorous psychic combat until they died within two months of each other in l964, MrsVal going first in July. Fleming often called hiss mother M.
Always this terrible confusion! The real ‘M’ in the war was the head of MI5, a man called Maxwell Knight. He was loved by his secretary, Joan Miller. She died in 1984 but her daughter fought, over the desperate efforts of MI5 to suppress them, to publish her memoirs, which are now available in Ireland. There is a poignant passage in which Miller describes the object of her doomed love: “As I sat there watching this avowed opponent of homosexuality mince across the lawn, a number of things became clear to me. His tastes obviously inclined him in the direction of what, in a phrase not then current, is known as “rough trade”. It was plain that he’d taken himself that time, to the cinema tea room, instead of spending the afternoon with his wife in Oxford, in the hope of effecting a suitably scrubby pick up.”
If Bond’s women were men in the books, in the movies they are fish, starting with Honeychile who comes up out of the sea in Dr No in one of the most successful associations of woman with water since Botticelli stood Venus up on a clamshell. In the movies Bond is often to be found down in cold water or up in the snow. The problem for Maibaum and for the various directors was no doubt to find scenery to match or compensate for the distraught psychic landscapes of the books. They found the answer where Jules Verne so often did, in the soothingly amoral underworld of the sea. It didn’t always work. The underwater sequences in Thunderbolt are numbingly slow. But at their best, in the explicitly Verne-like Spy Who Loved Me with Curt Jurgens’ Atlantis on its tarantula legs, or in the lesbian fantasy, Octopussy, the movies do take on the surreal texture of a Max Ernst painting.
They also lightened everything up. The only time Bond really behaves like a licensed killer is at the start of Dr No, when he studies the renegade Strangeway’s empty gun, says ‘You’ve had your six’ and then kills him in cold blood. Maibaum gave Bond a sense of humor. The idea was to present the cold war as a necessary, but humorous–in the case of Moore, frivolous–ritual. Right from the start the film series stood in marked contrast to the books in being pro detente. The only bad Russians are renegades, part of SPECTER, intent on sowing distrust between the great powers, as in The Spy Who Loved Me, where Jurgens schemes to arrange mutual assured destruction of all great powers other than his own. Maibaum says now that starting with Dr No, ‘for some reason, looking at the very, very long-range future United Artists did not want the Russians to be out and out villains, so we made Dr No come from SPECTER rather than SMERSH. That was really done for reasons of motion picture distribution, thinking that maybe some day Bond might go to Russia.’
Dr No set the high standard for Bond villains. The best of these villains was probably Gert Frobe in Goldfinger and Maibaum gave him one of the best lines. ‘Do you expect me to talk?’ Connery grits as the laser slices towards his crotch. ‘No Mr Bond, I expect you to die.’ On the whole one feels rather sorry for the villains, cultured and bold, but thwarted in their schemes for world conquest by so mean an intellect as Bond’s. But films don’t have the juice that Fleming’s cold war fifties political stance gave the novels, which is no doubt why the films got more and more fantastical, as sea, snow and travelogue became substitutes for Fleming’s paranoid verve. It is not surprising, given the length of the Bond series, that the audiences now take so much pleasure in the expected, in Bond as ritual: the pre-credit sequence established in From Russia With Love; the encounter with Miss Moneypenny; the throw-away lines and polished dialogue; the gadgets produced by Q.
Ah yes, the gadgets: the briefcase with knives and gold sovereigns, the Aston Martin DBS with ejector seat and saw-blades in the wheel hubs … In the mid 1960s Umberto Eco wrote an interesting essay about Fleming in which he discussed the author’s stylistic technique. ‘Fleming takes time to convey the familiar with photographic accuracy,’ Eco wrote, ‘because it is upon the familiar that he can solicit our capacity for identification. Our credulity is solicited, blandished, directed to the region of possible and desirable things. Here the narration is realistic, the attention to detail intense; for the rest, so far as the unlikely is concerned, a few pages suffice and an implicit wink of the eye.’
Fleming, and through him, Bond, was acutely aware of commodities, mundane objects of desire. No previous thriller writer had ever accommodated himself to such an extent to the psychology of acquisition, of envy, to the spiritual rhythms of the advertising industry. The makers and marketers of Bond movies understood this aspect of Fleming’s appeal very well, and soon the world grew used to Bond’s pedantic lectures on Taittinger and Q’s proud demonstrations of the latest in British gadgetry. The movies are full of tie-ins, from Cartier watches to vodka to the trusty Aston Martin itself. Backdrop becomes commodified too, as the Bond producers scour the world for fresh locations and ministers of tourism plead for a visit.
In this matter of commodities the Bond films have been a somewhat ironic reverie of British omnipotence. The cycle of Bond films began just when the Labour prime minister Harold Wilson was urging the nation to cast aside the archaic vestments of the past and bathe itself in the ‘white heat of technology’. Things worked in Bond movies but they didn’t work in Britain and as Kingsley Amis once sadly remarked, if Bond had really had to use his mini-submarine in combat conditions it would have surely taken him straight to the bottom. In 1983, just when Q gave Bond a staggering number of gadgets in Octopussy, Britain became for the first time in its history a net importer of industrial goods.
Noel Coward put the contrast between fantasy and reality well. ‘One of the things that still makes me laugh whenever I read Ian’s books is the contrast between the standard of living of dear old Bond and the sort of thing Ian used to put up with at Goldeneye. When Bond drinks his wine it has to be properly chambre, the tournedos slightly underdone, and so forth. But whenever I ate with Ian at Goldeneye the food was so abominable I used to cross myself before I took a mouthful. … I used to say, “Ian, it tastes like armpits.” And all the time you were eating there was an old lan smacking his lips for more while his guests remembered all those delicious meals he had put into the books.’
In that same weeklong visit to the UK years ago I turned on Channel 4 one evening. There was my friend Robin Blackburn, at that time editor of New Left Review, addressing the nation on the paramount necessity of Britain becoming truly socialist if it is to get out of its present mess. “The social horizon,” Robin said, “is still defined by institutions which serve British capital but which are not specifically capitalist and are not found in any other capitalist country. Our ruling institutions are the products of oligarchy and empire. Consecrated by time and custom they are like a dead weight on the imagination and aspirations of the living. Britain has become a living museum of obsolescence, whose most splendid trophy is nothing less than the world’s last ancien regime.”
Under prime ministers stretching back to Churchill, 007 has done his best, probably none better, to put Britain’s foot forward. He himself is, with the happy assistance of United Artists, one of Britain’s most successful exports. But if Bond is a fine example of world cultural integration at the level of kitsch, things have not always been in good shape on the home front. What has improved strongly is the coercive apparatus of the state. ‘You’re nothing but a stupid policeman,’ Dr No told Bond. If he had not had the misfortune to drown in his own nuclear well, the doctor would have been unhappy to discover that Bond’s trade–policing the British state–has fared better than most of the other props in the old museum. In this respect at least, the fantasy came true.
JUDY GARLAND & THE KING'S MEN — from "Girl Crazy" (1943)