High Pressure | 38 New Cases | Six Charged | Post Quake | Mother & Child Missing | Crawler Crane | Museum Events | Comptche | Cursed Valley | Engaging Storyteller | Loggers & Yarders | Apple Syrup | Concert Goers | Wild Ride | Yesterday's Catch | Co-Prez | Ab Diving | Bad Newspapers | Drake Boulevard | Swedish Hell | Despising Bernie | Playtime 2020 | Moving Rocks | Yelp Guy | Local Journalism | Drug Pusher | Unhinged Craziness
A STRONG RIDGE OF HIGH PRESSURE anchored across the West Coast will persist into next week, with overall dry and mild weather. While there will be occasional bouts of cloudy skies and morning fog, particularly along the coast, expect a fair amount of sunshine through the end of the week. (NWS)
38 NEW COVID CASES REPORTED YESTERDAY: 6 North Coast, 2 South Coast, 6 North County, 1 South County, and 23 Ukiah Area.
COVELO SIX CHARGED WITH FIRST DEGREE MURDER, KIDNAPPING, AND TORTURE of Traci Bland and Kyle McCartney
by Matt LaFever
Six Round Valley residents face grisly charges in the November 19 killings of Traci Bland and Kyle McCartney, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office. Those charges include murder in the first degree, kidnapping, carjacking, and torture.
The Covelo Six include Joseph Joshua Hoaglen, Samson Musellini Little Bear Joaquin, Joaquina Patrice Joaquin, Britton Leonard Azbill, Sr., David Joaquin, Jr., and Janet Faye Azbill. The criminal complaint makes clear they are the purported perpetrators of the November 19 kidnapping and subsequent murders of Traci Bland and Kyle McCartney
Regarding the two counts of murder in the first degree, the Covelo Six are accused of killing Traci Bland and Kyle McCartney “with deliberation and premeditation.”
Two special circumstances levied at the accused--involving kidnapping and carjacking--provide insight into the act of killing Bland and McCartney.
All six of the accused face charges of participating in a criminal conspiracy to "forcibly, and by any of the means of instilling fear, steal, take, hold, detain, or arrest" both Bland and McCartney.
Perhaps the most troubling detail revealed in the charging document are counts six and seven asserting the Covelo Six "willfully, unlawfully, with the intent to cause cruel and extreme pain and suffering for the purpose of revenge, extortion, persuasion and/or for sadistic purpose" inflicted great bodily injury on both Bland and McCartney.
The charging documents reveal strike allegations against three members of the Covelo Six. A strike allegation is a previous felony conviction that will inform subsequent sentencing.
In September 2016, Joaquina Patricia Joaquin was convicted of felony Assault with a Deadly Weapon in Tulare County.
In September of this year, Britton Leonard Azbill Senior was convicted of felony Assault With a Deadly Weapon in Mendocino County.
David Lee Joaquin also faces a strike offense stemming from a 2017 felony conviction of Burglary in the first degree.
Also, Joaquin was arrested by Mendocino County Sheriff's Office on November 23, 2020 for possession of a dagger and drug intoxication.
Outside of the criminal complaint’s scope, the other members of the Covelo Six, Joseph Hoaglen, Samson Joaquin, and Janet Faye Azbill, have extensive criminal pasts.
In December 2018, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office featured Hoaglen in their “Warrant Wednesday” post describing him as being wanted for assault with a deadly weapon and making criminal threats.
In January 2018, Hoaglen faced charges of robbery and vehicle theft.
In March of 2017, Hoaglen was stopped by MCSO deputies while driving in Round Valley, and a record check indicated he had outstanding warrants for second-degree robbery and use of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
Samson Joaquin’s criminal past includes where he was arrested and charged with domestic violence battery after allegedly attempting to choke and hit his pregnant partner.
In 2006, Janet Faye Azbill was booked into the Mendocino County jail on suspicion of driving under the influence, driving with suspended privileges and probation violations.
As per the criminal complaint, in upcoming days the defendants are expected to present any witness statements, physical/mental exams, scientific tests, or evidence they intend to use at trial to the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office.
(Matt LaFever operates the local website Mendofever.com.)
A MOTHER AND CHILD ARE STILL MISSING after a crash north of Leggett 24 hours ago. The woman, Trinity Brae, was driving a vehicle that struck a tree south of Confusion Hill at mile marker 98.3. The adult male passenger received major injuries.
The 34-year-old McKinleyville woman and her 3-year-old child, Anthony, left to get help. They were seen walking northbound on Hwy 101, but they haven’t been seen since.
According to Trinity’s adopted mom, Julie, “Anytime she has ever gotten into an issue she calls me. I tried to call her, but [the phone] keeps going right to voice mail. All I can think that she’s unconscious in the woods.”
Julie believes Trinity would have tried to come home if she could because “she was supposed to be signing a rental agreement yesterday; she was going to be getting her own place.”
Yesterday, Julie, began searching alongside Hwy 101 on foot. She went out looking again today. “If I’m yelling for her and she can actually hear me, she’ll probably come out,” Julie told us.
If anyone has time to help, Julie said, “We need some assistance. It is just me and two of my girlfriends."
If anyone has any information, they are asked to please contact the Garberville CHP Office at (707) 923-2155.
UPDATE 2:05 p.m.: Press release from the CHP:
On 11/30/2020, at approximately 1150 hours, a 2011 Toyota Sienna traveling northbound on US-101, south of Confusion Hill, collided with a tree along the east road edge, for reasons still under investigation. Officers from the Garberville CHP area were called at 1200 hours, responded to the scene and arrived at approximately 1218 hours. One of the occupants identified as Steven Gutierrez, sustained major injuries and was transported from the scene for medical care. Two other occupants, a white female adult identified as Trinity Leigh Bray, and a male juvenile identified as Anthony Florentine-Perez, voluntarily walked away from the scene prior to CHP arrival. Bray and Florentine-Perez were reported walking northbound along US-101 and did not appear to be injured as a result of the collision. Officers searched the surrounding area and businesses and were unable to locate Bray or Florentine-Perez upon arrival.
CHP Garberville was notified by friends and family of Bray’s, she had not made contact nor been seen since the accident. Officers were dispatched to all known current and prior addresses of Bray’s to confirm her and the child’s welfare. A welfare, “Be On the Look Out” was broadcast to adjacent and neighboring law enforcement agencies. CHP Air Operations, officers from the Garberville CHP, and Leggett Valley Fire Department conducted a coordinated air and foot search of the area surrounding the collision scene and were unsuccessful in locating either party. The investigating officer attempted contact with Bray at all known prior contacts and a cellular phone locating ping was initiated to attempt to locate Bray. All attempts were also unsuccessful.
If anyone has any further information regarding the whereabouts of Trinity Bray and/or Anthony Florentine-Perez please contact the Garberville CHP area office at (707) 923-2155.
SHELTER IN THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT:
Wreath sale, craft making, and livestreaming carols at Grace Hudson
While Mendocino County and the entire state of California continues in quarantine, the weekend of December 5th and 6th will bring an example of the resilience of the holiday spirit at Grace Hudson.
Saturday, Dec. 5th will bring a Holiday Wreath Sale, offered by the Sun House Guild. Wonderfully aromatic wreaths and swag from the folks at McFadden Farms will be available between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for purchasing curbside or by pre-order. Visit the Museum's website, www.gracehudsonmuseum.org, and scroll down the Events page for a pre-order form, or just stop by on Saturday between 10 and 2. All proceeds from the wreath sales benefit the Grace Hudson Museum & Sun House.
The festivities continue Sunday, Dec. 6th, when a virtual holiday program will be livestreamed from 3 to 4 p.m. There will an hour of storytelling, carols, and craft making. The Museum will be distributing craft-making kits beforehand to enable people to make simple kid-friendly holiday crafts as demonstrated on the program. Call the Museum at (707) 467-2836 for more details about the kits. And then visit the website a few minutes before 3 p.m. to access a link to the Virtual Holiday Program.
The Grace Hudson Museum is at 431 S. Main St. in Ukiah.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE DA
The entire county is watching. The citizens of Covelo are frightened. There is only one main paved road in and out of this cursed valley of genocide and death. This type of callous murder and death has been the normal since the 1850’s between the County of Mendocino and the families who were victims and survivors of the 1850-1870s forced relocation to Covelo, Round Valley. Nome Cult Farm: AKA- The Rez, Reservation.
There has been bitter family and tribal feuds ever since then because many of these tribes were born enemies of eachother before being forced to live together on the locked reservation which was more like an internment camp where indians were subjected to cruel punishment, starvation and no abilities for self improvement as the genocide and oppression continued into the 1960s in Mendocino County.
There is now a Cartel which has moved into town bringing with them methamphetamine, weapons, cocaine and opiate and heroine derivatives. The stolen weapons being brought into Covelo is arming some of the worst criminal elements while the drugs are doing some serious damage to the young people and old people of Round Valley just alike. The Valley needs some real Law Enforcement and not just bullshit eradication efforts aimed at asset forfeiture dollars. Some real patrol and investigative work, even a local Sheriffs Substation in Covelo at the Rangers Station. Start serving the warrants for the criminals already wanted in the area. The time is now, the hard drugs, human smuggling prostitution is making Covelo a very dangerous place to be, mix this with people who are not well educated or very smart to begin with and we are left with a looming disaster! Please prosecute these men to the maximum amount of time the law will allow. The next generation is watching and learning and the problem will pass on to the next generation of Round Valley thugs and criminals.
BILL KIMBERLIN: Made the Washington Post today. Been working on this guy for a few months to go with my paperback release which was on Sept. 15, 2020
“Kimberlin first directed his own indie film (American Nitro), described as having a strong cult following) but paid the bills as a visual effects expert, often as part of Industrial Light & Magic. He’s certainly an engaging storyteller.” — Michael Dirda, Washington Post.
ED NOTE: Mr. K's engaging book is on sale at Mosswood Market, downtown Boonville.
APPLE CIDER SYRUP
You can purchase this syrup ready-made from the Apple Farm self-serve farmstand on the banks of the Navarro in Anderson Valley, but if you have a supply of fresh apple juice (no preservatives, just apples) you can attempt it on your own.
Take a gallon of apple juice, ideally some you pressed yourself, and strain it into a crock pot. Set on low and stir every hour or so, removing any froth that rises to the top. As it begins to concentrate, it will remain quite thin until, all at once, it thickens up. If it goes too long, it will form a jelly when it cools. Begun in the afternoon and heated low and slow, it will be ready by late morning the next day. No need to stir in the middle of the night. Timing may vary depending on the water content in your juice.
Once the syrup has reduced by nearly three quarters, it should run off a wooden spoon at a slower pace. Pour into clean glass jars and store in the refrigerator to give away as gifts or enjoy on your own. Delicious drizzled over Laychee topped crackers, oatmeal, waffles. If you can stop yourself from licking the spoon, you are a beacon of willpower.
SUNEE MITCHELL’S WILD RIDE
On November 29, 2020 at approximately 02:19 AM, an Officer was on-duty and was driving in the 1000 block of S. State St., when he heard several people yelling near the driveway of a motel. The Officer saw an SUV speeding southbound from the driveway. The Officer quickly learned the vehicle had almost struck the four pedestrians, as it exited the driveway in reverse. The Officer activated the patrol vehicle’s emergency lights in an attempt to conduct an investigative stop on the SUV. The SUV drove southbound on S. State St., failing to stop at red traffic signals. The SUV turned onto Hastings Rd (eastbound), immediately conducted a U-turn and drove toward the Officer’s patrol vehicle. After a near collision with the patrol vehicle, the SUV drove northbound on S. State St., eastbound on Talmage Rd. at speeds exceeding 65 MPH.
The SUV drove into the parking lot of the AM / PM station, nearly struck two pedestrians who were in the parking lot, and then continued eastbound on Talmage Rd. While driving on Talmage Rd., the SUV drove in the westbound traffic lane. The SUV drove south on Old River Rd. and then eastbound on Mill Creek Drive. The SUV came to an abrupt stop in the 2300 block of Mill Creek Rd. MCSO and CHP arrived to assist.
The driver of the SUV refused to follow lawful commands from Officers and refused to exit the SUV. Officers broke the SUV’s window in order to remove her from the vehicle. Sunee Mitchell, 39 of Talmage, was taken into custody without further incident.
While interviewing Mitchell, Officers noticed she exhibited signs and symptoms of alcohol intoxication. She was found to have a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit.
Mitchell was subsequently transported and lodged at the MCSO Jail for the aforementioned violations.
The Ukiah Police Department would like to thank MCSO and CHP for their assistance with this case.
CATCH OF THE DAY, December 1, 2020
AVERY HILL, Laytonville. Unspecified misdemeanors, resisting.
STANLEY KLINGES JR., Ukiah. Attempted arson, domestic battery, criminal threats, probation revocation.
ERICK MALDONADO, Los Angeles/Ukiah. False reporting of crime.
GEORGE MANSFIELD, Fort Bragg. Brandishing, probation revocation.
BRENTON MICHELS, Kennewick, Washington/Ukiah. Under influence, controlled substance, no license, paraphernalia.
KYLE PATTEN, Willits. DUI.
PATTY PIERCE, Willits. Probation revocation.
MARK RAY, Laytonville. Child neglect/abandonment, probation revocation.
BRIAN WIEDEN, Ukiah. Domestic battery.
The 2020 presidential election should be called a draw. President emeritus Trump will hunker down at his Twitter post in the Oval office.
President Select Biden will attend to affairs of state from a pup tent in the Rose Garden.
The respective veeps will stand at parade rest until needed. Meanwhile the Kung Flu Pandemonium will expand exponentially to totally consume its prey base.
NO MORE SELF-NOMINATORS
I'm a newspaper reader and one of my complaints is "bad newspapers." In the past 30 years that I have been sending letters to the AVA I have never whined or complained. I either have solutions or new ideas. The score against me is around 250 to 0. If people would pay attention to my suggestions, Hale’s Grove would have a population of 25,000 instead of 1, if that.
Here is an example: I don't like candidates for the Board of Supervisors nominating themselves. I want them to "be" nominated. Last time in the Third District we had around 10 candidates self-nominated. “Hat Check” seemed to be the lesser of the evils, spent a large amount of money on advertising and he won.
Two months before the primary I wrote to the Willits News. I gave them a list of five intelligent and informed local people. I asked the Willits News to contact each of these people and ask them to suggest names of those who they thought would make good supervisors. Publicize the answers. When you get the same names from several respondents you come up with people who should be nominated. Do you think any newspaper in Northern California would do this? Hell no! Too much trouble. Wasn't their idea. Etc.
If there was a Mendocino weekly paper it would be highly profitable. Advertising revenues would set records. Look at the Willits Weekly. It would be a fat paper that could be sold for very small amount or free. Each community would be given all the space they need. Do you think the present County newspapers would go for this idea? Hell no! Better to continue with bad newspapers. (AVA excepted, of course.)
SAN ANSELMO EYES ONLY
Pulling out onto the Sir Francis Drake Blvd. from my complex an hour ago (last Wednesday morning) I thought this is like a freeway. Certainly there is a freeway level of traffic volume on Drake Blvd. from Butterfield to the hub.
I have a San Anselmo history book by a local local author named Barry Spitz in which he writes that in the 60s there was a plan by Caltrans I think to build a freeway from Terra Linda over Fawn Drive into Sleepy Hollow north of the San Anselmo border and the freeway would have gone west where Van Winkle Drive is now towards White’s Hill and the San Geronimo Valley.
I think that would have prevented a lot of the high-end residential development in Sleepy Hollow built in the 1960s. But in the long run it would have lessened traffic on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. through San Anselmo (a lot, I believe).
For example, traffic on weekends going to Point Reyes on the Sleepy Hollow freeway would have avoided Drake Boulevard.
I also imagine that the Sleepy Hollow Freeway idea was rejected so that the high-end residential zone north of the town border could be built since it is such an ideal sheltered and bucolic little Shangri-La for affluent and wealthy people to live in plus it was a lot of money to be made for the developers.
PS. In Orinda where I grew up there is also a very high-end sheltered residential zone named sleepy Hollow!
WITH TANDEN CHOICE, DEMOCRATS STICK IT TO SANDERS VOTERS
by Matt Taibbi
The Democratic Party is not known for its sense of humor, but news that Joe Biden will appoint longtime Center for American Progress chief Neera Tanden to his government qualifies as a rare, well-earned laugh line. Tanden is famous for two things: having a puddle of DNC talking points in place of a cerebrum, and despising Bernie Sanders. She was #Resistance’s most visible anti-Sanders foil, spending awe-inspiring amounts of time on Twitter bludgeoning Sanders and his supporters as a deviant mob of Russian tools and covert “horseshoe theory”
Trump-lovers. She has, to put it gently, an ardent social media following. Every prominent media figure with even a vague connection to Sanders learned in recent years to expect mud-drenched pushback from waves of “Neera trolls” after any public comment crossing DNC narratives. No name in blue politics is more associated with seething opposition to Sanders than Tanden.
Biden is making this person Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Sanders is the ranking member (and, perhaps, future chair) of the Senate Budget Committee. Every time Bernie even thinks about doing Committee business, he’ll be looking up at Neera Tanden. For a party whose normal idea of humor is ten thousand consecutive jokes about Trump being gay with Putin, that’s quite a creative “fuck you.” As friend and former Sanders aide David Sirota put it:
”The Democrats still have to reckon with Trumpism in both the short and long term, but the Sanders movement on their other flank has at least temporarily been routed as a serious oppositional force. The Democrats know this, which is part of the joke of the Tanden appointment. While the party’s labors to oppose Trump have been incoherent at best, the campaign to kneecap Sanders has been, let’s admit it, brilliant.”
The Blue Apparat has always despised Bernie and his various precursor movements far more than it hated Republicans, and for good reason. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Clintonite hacks in cushy Washington sinecures who would have retained their spots in the event of a loss to Trump. A Sanders win would have put them all out of the politics business for a while. It was unsurprising to see the party mainstream marshaling all of what passes for its brainpower to devise a long game to crate-train Sanders, who in less than a year went from oppositional favorite to seize the Democratic nomination to obedient afterthought.
In hindsight, the key blow against the Sanders movement was delivered way back on February 13th, 2016. Sanders at the time was making a primary race expected to be a blowout competitive, mostly via simple juxtaposition of Wall Street misbehavior and Hillary Clinton’s amazing aptitude for wolfing down corporate speaking fees.
In the lead-up to the Iowa caucus, Sanders ran an ad blasting Goldman, Sachs for its role in trading “toxic” mortgage securities, and asked: how does Wall Street get away with it? Answer: “millions in contributions and speaking fees”:
The Clinton campaign for weeks struggled to come up with an answer for why it was okay for her Super PAC, the ironically-named Priorities USA, to take the bulk of its money from Wall Street, or why Clinton and her husband in fifteen years had racked up an incredible $153 million in speaking fees, at an average of $210,795 per speech, including $600,000 from Goldman.
The first effort at a defense was to blast Sanders for using what she called an “artful smear,” claiming he couldn’t come up with a specific example of how all that special interest money had affected her. “If you’ve got something to say, say it directly,” she said in a debate, adding that she objected to the idea that “anyone who's ever taken donations or speaking fees from any interest group has to be bought.”
This argument worked for Sanders, though, as Clinton was essentially repeating that she was taking gobs of special interest money. She moved off the “I strenuously object on behalf of those who’ve collected massive speaking fees” defense soon enough and shifted to another, arguing on February 8th, 2016 that Sanders, too, had taken some Wall Street money — through the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee! For obvious reasons, this argument, that Sanders had been corrupted “indirectly” through her own party’s campaign apparatus, fell flat as well.
The true Eureka! moment came in a speech in Henderson, Nevada in that second week of February. Clinton told supporters that, of course — hand on heart — she’d be more than happy to break up the banks, “if they deserve it.” At the same time, she wondered what that would really accomplish:
Would breaking up banks end racism, she asked the crowd? No! came the answer. Sexism? No! Discrimination against the LGBT community? No! Would punishing banks make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight? Or fix problems with voting rights for people of color, the elderly, the young? No, no, no, and NO!
None of this made sense, of course. Raising the minimum wage, curtailing carbon emissions, lowering student debt, curing cancer, securing world peace, or any of a thousand other worthwhile things wouldn’t have solved the parade of meta-problems Clinton listed. There was no logical reason to depict the two sets of things — economic and racial justice aims — as contradictory goals. But Clinton’s “Not everything is an economic theory!” speech stuck, with the media most of all. From that point forward, everything Sanders said about inequality was spun by party messengers as half of a zero-sum equation that somehow punished disadvantaged groups on the other end.
The brilliant innovation was adopting the language of intersectionality to beat back the party’s populist flank. In March of 2016, in the middle of a debate with Sanders in Flint, Michigan, the Clinton campaign posted a jargon-crammed chart depicting the “intersectional challenges” that “we” face, noting that “real plans” were needed. This was classic Clintonian politics, mastering the lexicon of social progressivism to mask a lunge rightward on economic questions.
The 2016 rip of Sanders as a “pie in the sky” candidate who didn’t offer “real” solutions to “intersectional” problems was an echo of 2008, when Bill Clinton denounced Barack Obama as a “fairy tale” candidate. In that year, and really in all previous cycles, the Clinton strategy had been to push back against progressive challenges by depicting themselves as realists who eschewed “purity” to “get things done.” In 2016, though, the DNC priesthood ripped off the language of “purist” activists to fend off Sanders, an unvarnished underdog character straight out of Capra that the Party would now recast as the reactionary representative of the patriarchy. As Democratic speechwriter Jon Favreau put it in one of the Wikileaks emails
“This idea that class is the only divide and economic issues are all that matter is a very white male centric view of the world (a Bernie Bro view, if you will). It also reminds me of the hilarious joke that Brian Buetler keeps making every time some asshole says something horribly racist about Obama or sexist about Hillary or prejudice about immigrants and Muslims - oh, let's not blame them, they're just economically anxious.”
In that same letter culled from the Podesta Wiki dump, Favreau said aloud the taboo truth that “economic anxiety” was, of course, real. However, he said Trump’s emergence made “divisiveness” a more important issue than “inequality.”
Years later, an anonymous Clinton aide would spell all of this out even more, saying that Bernie’s status as a “cis white man” gave him “privilege” that disqualified him from talking about political strategy choices in the Trump era.
The irony was the Clinton brand was built on the opposite strategy. Bill Clinton-Dick Morris politics revolved around the relentless working of wedge issue math, with the candidate constantly veering right and attacking left to steal away Republican advantages. Bill Clinton passed the infamous 1994 crime bill (which formalized the equally infamous “100-1” sentencing disparity for crack versus cocaine users), introduced the “Defense of Marriage Act” to undercut gay marriage, passed NAFTA, and implemented the welfare reform law long sought by the likes of Ronald Reagan, among countless other examples of regressive policy choices designed to steal Republican thunder.
All of this, the New Yorker wrote back in 1996, allowed Clinton to deploy the wedge issues of economic populism against the Republicans while blunting the Republicans' ability to use the wedge issues of social populism against him… On issues of criminal rights and liberties — what might be called Willie Horton issues — Clinton has… gone so far to the right that he has been willing to back measures of dubious constitutionality.
With Sanders, this script was flipped exactly backward. This time, Democrats used “wedge issues of social populism” to fight back against “economic populism.” The same political sect that leaked photos of Barack Obama in African garb, and implied South Carolina wasn’t a meaningful primary state.
Jesse Jackson had won there, and Clinton went out of his way to execute mentally impaired Ricky Ray Rector as a seeming campaign stunt. Yet he was now draping himself in racial sanctimony. Meanwhile, the rumpled Vermont socialist Sanders was cast — by the Clintons — as the icon of white liberal racism! It would all be laughable, if it didn’t also work.
With the aid of enormous quantities of hype and bull artistry, opinionmakers heading into the 2019-2020 election cycle crafted a new vision of the intellectual “controversy” that divided Democrats, and described the difference between Sanders and the field of mainstream challengers like Biden. The crucial question, supposedly, was the road to solving America’s problems a matter of erasing class inequities? Or did a “class only” analysis insufficiently highlight the special disadvantages faced by communities of color and other disadvantaged groups?
A third possibility — that mainstream Democrats as a rule ignored both questions and primarily whored for corporate donors — was ignored. Democratic politics was presented as a binary proposition, where the two choices were an enlightened approach stressing racial justice, or a “class determinism” that was really just a fetish of rich white kids dabbling in leftist politics because they felt guilty about their inheritances. There was a trickle of this rhetoric in 2015-2016, but by 2019, feature after feature pondered the “stubborn economism” of the Sanders campaign, wondering aloud if Bernie had the goods to answer the all-important question, “Is it race or class?”
In truth the schism within the Party had nothing to do with any fictitious Sophie’s Choice between tackling racism or economic inequality, as if the two were mutually exclusive. The real issue was money. Sanders refused to take corporate donations. Clinton Democrats refused to “unilaterally disarm,” and did take them. This was the entire debate and it wasn’t complicated. Pundits however were able to muddy these waters pretty easily, in large part because they knew the intellectual weaknesses of left-leaning media audiences, as well as Sanders himself.
This ingenious campaign against “Bernie Bros,” led in significant part by online trolls like Tanden, was a success for predictable reasons. Sanders on his touchiest day is not the most confrontational of personalities. He doesn’t enjoy the bloodsport of politics and preferred to try to win in 2016 and 2020 though what aides grumblingly described as the “rock concert.” Before massive adoring crowds, Bernie would recite a gospel about the evils of corporate influence, hoping that sheer righteous enthusiasm would carry the day. He rarely stressed about his opponents’ efforts to caricature him. When Bernie did get mad, like for instance at the coverage of the Washington Post, it often worked. But these episodes were rare, as he tended to reserve his ire for systemic villains, and rarely seemed motivated to answer personal insults.
As a result, Sanders never found a way to call bullshit on the “But will it end racism?” line. If anything, he was paralyzed by it. The difference between 2016 Bernie and 2020 Bernie is that the latter version seemed deeply troubled by charges that he was “out of touch” on issues like race, which, frankly, he was, at times. It was true that the aging Senator of a white agricultural state often tensed up over race questions or used outdated language, in episodes that allowed press wolves to depict him as a secret unreconstructed bigot (his use of the word “ghetto” in 2016 was an example). There were times when he seemed at a loss on racial issues in ways he was not on economic matters.
Of course, relatively speaking, Sanders had a terrific record on racial justice — he had marched with King when Hillary Clinton was a Goldwater girl and Joe Biden was chain-fighting Corn Pop, and had advocated for the working poor his whole life — but he agonized over the criticism in ways more shame-immune opponents did not. The DNC and its messengers were counting on Bernie’s decades of residence in the weeds of fringe-liberal politics, where winning obscure doctrinal arguments in interminable (if sparsely attended) meetings and fighting pitched battles over things like who is and is not a sellout can be more important activities than, say, winning anything. With the “Bernie Bro” narrative, the party went after Bernie’s rep as a real progressive, and he was constitutionally incapable of ignoring such a provocation.
It was the same with charges that he was a favorite of the Russians, another regular theme of Tanden. Rather than recognize from the start that the Russia issue was being used as a club against opposition voices across the spectrum, including the antiwar left, Sanders tiptoed around the question, often giving lip service to the most absurd Russiagate theories. He didn’t show a hint of anger until a fresh dump of “Secret Sources Say Putin Loves Bernie!” reports hit the news about ten minutes before the Nevada caucus. Bernie at least saw through that one. “I’ll let you guess about one day before the Nevada caucuses,” he quipped last February. “The Washington Post? Good friends.”
Even in that case, though, Sanders couldn’t take the next step. Instead of taking aim at the conniving bund of reporters, DNC pols, and intelligence sources driving these McCarthy-style attacks, Sanders after the Nevada incident dutifully denounced the Foreign Menace. “I unequivocally condemn such interference,” he said, essentially conceding that Russia was helping his campaign.
Just like Jeremy Corbyn, who looked weak when he dignified both the red-baiting claims that Russia was helping him and the breathless accusations of anti-Semitism cooked up as a last-ditch effort to delegitimize his coalition, Sanders helped shovel dirt on his own movement by failing to strike back in anger at these multitudinous bogus propaganda campaigns.
Now the Democrats have the White House back, and it’s already pretty clear that Sanders voters are going to be rewarded for this timidity with four years of the High Hat.
How bad is it? Appointments like Janet Yellen, John Kerry and, yes, even Tanden are being lauded as picks likely to be “welcomed by progressives.” The rest of Biden’s team feels like absolute continuity with the last three decades of Wall Street-friendly Democratic politics, with the appointment of Black Rock veteran Brian Deese to serve as chief economic adviser being just one example.
The difference between conventional Democrats and the Sanders movement is that Democrats never allowed themselves to view Sanders and his followers as anything but threats that needed squashing. They were never tempted, even for a moment, to take the idea of a Sanders presidency seriously.
Sanders was loyal in the end to the party that made a mission of destroying him, and now gets Neera Tanden up the keister as the first installment in what is sure to be a long program of repayment for the sin of running without permission.
Welcome to the eternal law of American politics, where no crime is punished more harshly than being a good loser. This was classic Clintonian politics, turning potential weaknesses into wedge issues that break in their favor.
Given the history of the “New Democrat” movement to which both Clintons belonged, there was an incredible irony in the use of racial politics to blunt a challenge from an economic populist. More on that in a moment. Suffice to say that for the balance of 2016 through today, the party mainstream wasn’t going to let Bernie and his movement get anything from them.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Why am I having to save up to buy a tractor? I want to get an old Case or IH with big rear wheels, drive it up and down the street, freak out the neighbors. Also, to drag large stones around the property to rebuild a boundary wall that was originally put up c. 1650-1700. I’m not sure how they moved these boulders back in the day, maybe with oxen and block & tackle? And how did these large rocks — which weigh as much as 500-600 lbs — get scattered? It’s almost like at some point they grew legs and tried to get away.
A CORNERSTONE OF DEMOCRACY, COLLAPSING
In the internet’s early days, it seemed to have the potential to crush traditional print media. But its impact has turned out to be more nuanced.
The internet has instead been a boon for some publications with a national audience. The New York Times has never had as many subscribers or readers — or employed as many journalists — as it does today. The Atlantic, The Washington Post and some others are also thriving.
It’s at the local level that the digital revolution has been as destructive as feared.
Hundreds of local news organizations have folded, as their advertising revenue disappears, and the pandemic is exacerbating the crisis. At least 60 local newsrooms have closed since March, according to Poynter. Some of them were more than a century old, like The Eureka Sentinel, in Nevada; The Mineral Wells Index, in Texas; and The Morehead News, in Kentucky.
This isn’t a story of creative destruction, in which nimble new entrants replace older companies. Often, nothing replaces a shuttered newsroom, leaving communities without any independent information about local government, schools and businesses. (A recent Times investigation found that some partisan groups have begun posing as local publishers, trying to pass off political propaganda as news.)
There are consequences for society. When a community’s newspaper closes, voter turnout and cross-party voting tend to decline, while political corruption and government waste rise, academic research has found. A democracy struggles to function when its citizens can’t stay informed.
What can be done? Eventually, savvy entrepreneurs may figure out how to make local news profitable. But several have tried in recent years, without success. For the foreseeable future, the only reliable answer seems to involve philanthropy. Americans have long accepted that the arts, higher education and organized religion all depend on charitable giving. Local journalism is now in the same category.
“We need philanthropists across the country to embrace robust local journalism,” Sarabeth Berman, the chief executive of the American Journalism Project, which funds local news sites, told me. “If you care about education, you need to worry if school boards and charter boards are covered. And if you care about the environment, you should make sure reporters like Ken Ward Jr. are covering coal country in West Virginia.”
There are many other shining examples of the new nonprofit journalism. But even more communities receive little to no high-quality coverage.
(New York Times Editorial)
TAKE ME OUT OF THE BALL GAME
A One-Act Play
by Steve Heilig
Umpire: “Strike three, you’re out, you lose and that’s the game, series, and season!”
Coach: “What do you mean, lose? They cheated!”
“What do YOU mean? That ball sailed right past your guy. As did many others, and they have many more runs than you do. That’s the rules, and the game. Got it?”
“No way. Those weren’t real strikes. Or runs. They were fake!”
“Er, what the hell? We all saw them all. And there were so many more than you had, so that’s it.”
“Baloney. And who are you to say anyway?”
“What the – I’m the umpire. It’s what we do. See all those people screaming that their team won? Turn on the radio or TV too and you’ll hear it there too – it’s over.”
“See, that’s what I mean – the umpires and media don’t decide this. And speaking of …. Where are YOU from, ump? I think we need to see your birth certificate. And not any fake one, the real, long one. This whole thing’s corrupt.”
“What makes you think it’s corrupt? You didn’t say that when you won last season – in fact by the same amount of runs and games. In fact, I think I recall you calling that a slaughter or something like that.”
“It’s corrupt. Somebody saw those guys putting lead in the bats. And spit on the balls. And spying on and relaying the catcher’s signals all the way from, uh, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela or Castro in Cuba or wherever.”
“Er, Chavez and Castro are long dead. Even if they were standing right here, that’s just nuts. Look up at the scoreboard and there it is.”
“They hacked into the scoreboard too. We have evidence. Everybody out there, send money so we can win!”
“What evidence? You’ve got nothing, you’re just saying crazy stuff now and being a sore loser.”
“DON’T call us losers. We aren’t losers. We are WINNERS.”
“You lost by millions of runs. Sorry, that’s losing.”
“Impossible. I’m the most popular player in history.”
“Uh, you never even got to 50% among the fans.”
“Fake polls. Listen, another thing, I think some of their players aren’t legal too.”
“Not legal? What do you mean?”
“They weren’t born here.”
“They – what the holy f—k? Many of the best players weren’t born here. Heck, your WIFE wasn’t born here?”
“Prove it. We built a wall to keep them out of our ballparks.”
“A wall? What wall? That little thing you conned your fans with and made all of us pay for, using our money even though you said others would pay, and - ?
“You know what else – a bunch of their players were dead!”
“And people are saying they used fake names too, and batted more than once!”
“Dead players were batting…?”
“Yep, prove they weren’t, people are saying. Everybody, send money now!”
“What kind of people do you - “
“Our lawyers. Very good lawyers. Only the best people. Except for the ones who try to show their private parts to adolescent girls or are so unhinged even we have to say they aren’t our lawyers anymore.”
“OK this is just unhinged craziness. We’re done”
“No we’re not. And, you should have stopped counting runs in the 7th inning. At least in some places. Not others.”
“What? When has that ever happened?”
“Those last runs shouldn’t count, is all, people are saying. Plus they were counting the runs in commie countries, not here.”
“That’s insane, and you just have to know it….”
“No, what I do know is you are part of Deep Ump, a bunch of anti-baseball careerists who are against the little guy.”
“You’re not the little guy, you’re rich, at least as long as you can keep conning and burning people and cheating on taxes and all that. And, unhinged.”
“I’m invoking the Infield Fly Rule here, this game doesn’t count!”
“The what? That has nothing to do with anything here, and – “
“And I saw you guys making our players stand apart, so that we couldn’t talk, or grab each other by the whatever, because of some bogus Chinese virus hoax or something.”
“A hoax, like the climate thing, don’t pretend you don’t know, your team is funded by Soros or Gates and all of them. This whole series is a hoax! You’re fired!”
“Sir, you cannot fire me, unlike all those people who have worked for you and told you the truth or something like that.”
“I can do whatever I like, and pardon them, especially if they know too much, and even pardon myself if I want to, so there!”
“I think we’re going to have to call security here, or maybe the psych emergency people….”
“No you don’t. They’re all coming at me anyway with all kinds of fake investigations and lawsuits if I don’t win, just because of my, um, my whole career to date. This was supposed to be the best election ever, with so much winning you couldn’t stand it anymore!”
“Well, in some ways that has turned out to be true. But not for you. You can’t demand any more recounts or replays or whatnot, you’re now batting 1-39 on those, wasting millions of dollars, and have only turned up even more runs for the other team, with some of your sucker donors wanting their money back. That’s losing, however you slice it. You’re done. And here come the men in the white coats, so just hold on a second here…”
“No! Wait! All my proud bigots standing by stand up! Everybody send money!”
(Muffled scuffling sounds and shouting, followed by robust singing of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” by Jak Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer, 1908).