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ASIDE FROM SOME VALLEY FOG, high pressure will provide a break in the active weather with partial sunshine for most of northwest California today. Clouds will increase later today in advance of the next passing storm system, with another shot of rain, gusty southerly winds, and some high mountain snow for Wednesday. Another front will pass by around Thursday night, with showers lingering into Friday. (NWS)
37 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County on Sunday, bringing total to 2663. Another death added.
NOTE TO PRINT EDITION READERS: Changes in our print schedule mean the mail dispatch from Boonville is now on Thursdays, not Wednesdays. Subscribers, stores, and newstands beyond the Anderson Valley will get their paper-papers a day later than previously.
MARGIE CARPENTER was born in Santa Rosa, CA on April 22, 1927.
She crossed over on December 17, 2020 at the age of 93. She was the elder of the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians. She is survived by her son Kenneth Pacram, granddaughter Raina August, great grandchildren TaNeka Woods-Lewis and Tyanah August, and great great grandchild Katie Lewis.
She was laid to rest on December 30th at 1:00 pm at Ukiah Cemetery.
A READER WRITES: Help me out here. Some locals are praising Adventist for its handling of today's vaccine emergency. The LA Times did a piece. I am a tad torn about this story. I am glad a potentially disastrous vaccine situation was averted but my mind almost immediately went to the effing hospital freezer, and so-called alarm system. In the middle of a pandemic, and the urgency behind stored vaccines, wouldn't you think the hospital would have gone out of its way to make sure the freezer and alarm system were virtually fail safe? The vaccine was getting 'warm' before the problem was discovered. Hello? Who's responsible. I am sure hospital spokeswoman Cici Wineger is delighted with the spin, but I wished the hell I had her on the phone.
ANOTHER READER ADDS: Look! Were in the daily beast!
Hundreds Hit COVID Vaccine Jackpot After Hospital Freezer Meltdown
FROM: MENDOCINO COUNTY EXECUTIVE OFFICE
The winter’s first rainbow appeared near the County of Mendocino’s Administration Offices on Monday, January 4th - just in time for the swearing in of the county’s newest Supervisors.
Glenn McGourty, representing the First District, and Maureen “Mo” Mulheren, representing the Second District were sworn in by Mendocino County CEO Carmel Angelo.
Given the county’s commitment to social distancing, both incoming Supervisors were asked to limit their numbers of guests, and the event was not open to the public. CEO Angelo noted both individuals officially began their terms of office at noon on Monday. They were asked to “solemnly swear” to uphold, support and defend both the California and the United States Constitutions.
McGourty was sworn in first, and following his oath, noted that along with the immense challenges brought on by the pandemic, he has a full schedule of other concerns - noting that cannabis, homelessness, fire and water issues are critical areas for the new Board to address. “Any one of these issues could easily encompass the entire four years,” he noted.
Supervisor McGourty is looking forward to the creation of a strategic plan.
“Strategic plans help to tell us how our government should function. I’m really happy to see this idea coming up for discussion. They don’t have to be too complex, and they help to reinforce what we know, and from there, how to best allocate resources.”
Supervisor Mulheren is excited to bring her experience as a Ukiah City Councilmember to the Supervisor’s Chambers.
“The community is the most important priority,” she noted, adding she intends to utilize social media to stay in touch with her constituents and to encourage civic involvement and engagement.
“I will continue my Thursday morning “Coffee and Conversation” meetings, create an e-newsletter and convene another community meeting on the second Sundays of the month,” she explains.
“Particularly, as we move forward into the provision of the Covid-19 vaccination programs, we can’t have too much information. Transparency builds trust,” she concluded.
Despite the small size of the gathering, the attendees were enthusiastic, and CEO Angelo noted she hopes there will be an opportunity for a more fulsome celebration once the coronavirus is under control.
SUPES AGENDA HIGHLIGHTS
by Mark Scaramella
Ten More Deputies
(Board of Supervisors Agenda, January 5, 2021)
Item 5j: Discussion and Possible Action Regarding the Operation, Staffing, and Fiscal Plan for Additional Ten (10) Deputies to the Sheriff's Operations to Address Organized Crime and Illegal Marijuana Grows in Mendocino County (Sponsor: Sheriff-Coroner)
“The Sheriff’s Office desires to hire ten (10) additional Deputies over a three-year period—4 in year 1 and 3 additional deputies in year 2 and 3—to address the increase in organized crime and illegal marijuana grows. The crime statistics connected to the increase in organized crime and illegal marijuana grows are fluid and rapidly changing.
Since the October 6, 2020 discussion with the Board of Supervisors, additional kidnappings and crimes of violence have occurred and are under investigation while more crimes associated continue to be reported.
It is thus imperative that the County address this ongoing crisis so that all Mendocino County residents can have a better quality of life and live in a safer community. MCSO staff projects that the ongoing dollar amount needed for 10 Deputies is $901,869 in year 1, $1,357,541 in year 2, and $1,783,482 in year 3. The total projected cost of all 3 years is $4,042,892.”
Gurr-Borges Lawsuit Continues
Item 9a (Closed Session): “Pursuant to Government Code Section 54956.9(d)(1) - Conference with Legal Counsel - Existing Litigation: Ann Marie Borges & Chris Gurr v. County of Mendocino et al. - United States District Court-Northern District of California Case No. 3:20-cv-04537-SI”
More Offices Next Door To The Schraders’ Orchard Ave. Operation.
Item 9c (Closed Session): Pursuant to Government Code Section 54956.8 - Conference with Real Property Negotiator - Property: APN 002-340-38, and Physical Address: 551 South Orchard Avenue, Ukiah, CA 95482. Agency Negotiators: Carmel J. Angelo, Janelle Rau, and Darcie Antle. Under negotiation: Property Acquisition, Price and Terms.
ms notes: The Schraeders’ Redwood Community Services office is at is at 631 So. Orchard Ave where soon there will be a Rolls-Royce of a Crisis Residential Treatment Center. The Newly purchased $11 million Best Western motel being remodeled into a homeless shelter is a 555 Orchard Ave. 551 Orchard Ave. appears to be an office buildling next door to the Best Western.
James Marmon clarifies: “551 Orchard Ave. is Dick Selzer’s real estate office (Realty World and Selzer home loans). If anyone cares to remember, he was very upset when the County bought the Best Western for the homeless. I guess buying him out is better than a big court battle. I don’t blame him, the neighborhood is headed downhill in a hurry. I recognized the address immediately, it’s where I send my mortgage payment each month.”
The Doctor Who Won’t Go Away
Item 4k (Consent Calendar): Approval of Retroactive Agreement with Noemi Doohan, M.D., Ph.D., in the Amount of $100,000 [$125/hour for up to 15 hours per week] for County Deputy Public Health Officer Services, Effective January 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021
Sponsor: Health and Human Services Agency
ED NOTE: O hell yes. Give her another hundred thou for a job she did mostly without leaving her San Diego house and was mostly boilerplate statements of the obvious. Give us an honest bank robber any day.
MONDAY UPDATE: If none of the Supervisors even pull this obvious giant waste of money from the consent calendar, it means that we can’t expect much accountability from any of them for the next two years or more.
Big New Per-Plant Penalties For Non-Permitted Pot Growers
Item 4o (Consent Calendar): New Proposed Cannabis Penalties
Penalties for Certain Cannabis Related Violations.
The penalties in this subsection, 1.08.060(H), may be used in addition to or as an alternative to any other penalties or remedies that may be applicable or available.
Cultivation of cannabis in the absence of a required County permit, or authorization, and a required State License is a violation of this Code that shall be subject to an administrative penalty of up to one hundred dollars ($100.00) per cannabis plant.
a. For the purpose of this subsection, 1.08.060(H)(2), a cannabis plant includes each mature or immature plant of Cannabis sativa L., Cannabis indica, or Cannabis ruderalis, which has breached the surface of the soil or other media in which it is growing.
b. If a per plant penalty is imposed pursuant to this subsection, 1.08.060(H)(2), the per plant penalty may be increased by the amounts specified below for each circumstance that applies:
By up to an additional one hundred dollars ($100.00) for each plant that is occupying space on graded land for which the required grading permit has not been obtained and finalized;
By up to an additional one hundred dollars ($100.00) for each plant that is occupying space in a structure for which the required building permit has not been obtained and finalized.
By up to an additional one hundred dollars ($100.00) for each plant if the plant is grown on a parcel on which any tree species identified in MCC section 10A.17.040(K) was removed for the purpose of growing cannabis. It shall be prima facie evidence of purpose if cannabis is being grown on or near the location at which the identified tree species were removed.
Gotta Get Glenn In There Quick to replace Potter Valley Grape/Water Don Carre Brown right away!
Item 4q (Consent Calendar, of course): “Adoption of Resolution Appointing Supervisor Glenn McGourty as Director and Supervisor Maureen Mulheren as Alternate Director to Serve on the Ukiah Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) Board of Directors (Sponsor: Water Agency)”
A READER WRITES:
Now that Supervisors Brown and McCowen have officially ridden off into the supervisorial sunset without so much as Whereas proclamations, the first Supes meeting of the year will swear in Glenn McGourty in the First District and Maureen ‘Mo’ Mulheren in the Second. Will the two newest members of the Board dare to challenge CEO Carmel Angelo's authority? We elected them to run the County, not the CEO. Chances appear to be slim to none. CEO Angelo has steadily consolidated power over the last ten years, most importantly by assuming the role of Clerk of the Board and using various “emergencies” as tools to consolidate her authority. Angelo has near total control over the Board agenda and all staff that the Board rely on report to Angelo, not to the Board. McGourty and Mulheren, having just been elected, are immediately being put to the test. As the AVA noted in a previous agenda highlights list, two items in particular make clear that Angelo is not giving the new Supes any grace period before showing them who calls the shots. The acid test is the proposed contract extension for Dr. Doohan for another $100,000 to sit poolside at San Diego while issuing generis public health orders that don't apply to her. You’ll recall that Dr. Doohan is famous for issuing a stay at home order then promptly departing for San Diego. Hiring Doohan may be justified — is Dr. Coren not worth the big bucks they’re already paying him to be “health officer”? — but on the Consent Calendar? A favorite tactic of the CEO is to put controversial items on the consent calendar and then see if they fly by the incomprehending Supervisors. It can be seen as a direct challenge to the Supes. If they let controversial items like this sail through without even pulling them off for discussion, much less a no-vote, it will be clear that Angelo's power is intact. Angelo also appears poised to reward her personal friend Dick Selzer, the wealthy Ukiah real estate magnate, with the buyout of the Selzer Realty office complex located at 551 South Orchard Ave. in Ukiah. Selzer was furious that the County purchased the Best Western motel just behind his property for conversion to 50+ units of homeless housing. Angelo proposes to solve Selzer's problem by spending more millions to buy his property, presumably to convert it to more homeless housing or office space for homeless admin. Will the Supes go along with Angelo's gift of millions of public funds to her personal pal? Rumor around town has it that Angelo has already had the property appraised and the deal negotiated with her friend the realtor without any prior Board involvement or authorization. McGourty and Mulheren are about to learn that life can be easy if you accept the neat packages presented by the CEO.
Night Light of the North Coast: 2020 A Night Light Review
by David Wilson
The year 2020 was something of an off year. I, for one, took fewer photographs; I simply had less creative energy this year. There was the never-ending pandemic, followed by the raging, record-setting wild fires of summer and fall. On top of that, with very little time to prepare I was asked to teach a new class, and for the first time I had to teach a class entirely online.
The fires impacted student performance, the pandemic affected them, and adjusting to purely online instruction affected them. It was an interesting year and semester at College of the Redwoods. It all got to me, too, with the result that I had less creative energy for my photography. Maybe the coming semester will be a little smoother; at least there shouldn’t be any wildfires.
While 2020 certainly contributed more than its share of ill wind, there was still a great deal of beauty to be found in it. Outside of human consciousness, Nature’s magnificence continued unabated. Allow me to share a few of the beautiful scenes that I found while prowling 2020’s Night Light of the North Coast.
To read previous entries of “Night Light of the North Coast” or keep abreast of David's most current photography or purchase a print, visit and contact him at his website mindscapefx.com or follow him on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx .
A MENDOCINO WRITER: Paul McHugh writes: The last time I got something into the AVA was in 1984-85 just before I decamped from Anderson Valley to San Francisco to go to work for the Chron. I don't even remember now what it was i published with you. Probably something having to do with paddling the Navarro or working on a sheep ranch. Sheep dogs? That could have been me. I was caretaker of the Lowry Ranch in Yorkville from 1983-1985. Anyway, after 22 years at the Chronicle, mostly doing outdoor stuff, but some investigative front pages too, i took a buyout in 2007 and proceeded to work on fiction. If you want to know anything about those periods, a lot of it is up www.paulmchugh.net.
My very latest thing is my fourth novel, "Came A Horseman," mostly set on the Lost Coast. I'm doing the print launch in conjunction with Christy Day Olson at Gallery Books in Mendocino. We will do a zoom-chat for all comers on January 14 at 6 pm followed by a Facebook Live on January 21 at noon. Even after all this time I still consider myself a Mendocino writer. I mean, that's where I got my start, working for seven years out of a literal garret at the top of a small victorian on the corner of Ford and Covelo streets. Cheers.
LAST CALL for anyone who would like to attend my class on Creating Unforgettable Images. (Larry Wagner)
Master Class: Creating Unforgettable Images
Online Fine Art / Photography Workshop with Larry R Wagner
January 9, 16, 23 & 30 and February 6 & 13, 2021
Saturdays, 10am–12pm PST
Structure of Class: (6) 2-hour Zoom sessions
F525-O • For advanced photographers and those serious about improving their photography
Registration deadline: January 5, 2021
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
The word “Vigilante” is a hot button word. The very first vigilante committee was formed in in San Francisco by Sam Brannan during the early days of the lawless goldrush.
It was NOT “vigilante Justice” that a robber was hog tied & held for law enforcement. Any reasonable person would do the same to ANY & ALL robbers to detain them, especially in an ongoing incident with demonstrated violence. That was a big guy who if not detained that way, could have escaped back into the woods, and/or commit even more violence.
So his being hog tied WAS very appropriate, no matter what the person’s race is. Race has no business in THIS discussion, a group of city THUGS come up here, and they rob, assault, & kidnap. One got away, he was detained for law enforcement.
IF this was ACTUAL “vigilante Justice”, that robber would be swinging from a tree, no matter what race the robber is, so COOL IT WITH THE HOT POINT USE OF INFLAMATORY WORDING. This goes for the police, media, and online community…AND SHERIFF KENDALL.
What do folks expect to happen when such a dangerous robber is caught..? “Oh, please mr thug, stay here & wait until the cops show up… you won’t try to run away again will you?” Invite him in for tea & cookies? That’s misguided bullshit.
They are THUGS… not the cream of society coming for tea & crackers…
The very same exact reason he was hog tied is the very same reason cops put people in handcuffs, and sometimes in leg irons… to restrain the individual from escape or further violence!
DUH! I’m surprised this has to be explained to folks to whom this is not obvious…
The robbers knew what they were doing and it is just plain wrong, morally and legally. They took a chance, they were violent, they got caught, they will face penalties.
GOD’S COUNTRY BECKONS
A Lake County mother's response to "Cookies to Kodiak," AVA, Dec. 30, 2020.
Never underestimate the "can-do attitude" of a good mother to bring homemade cookies with hot chocolate to her boy in the city. She went through as many changes as Pee Wee Herman did in his big adventure! Remember, he traveled the United States just to find his stolen bicycle. Such a fun movie. I was later in denial as Pee-Wee's career ended after he was caught in a movie theater unzipped. Guys do often forget to re-zip it after departing the urinal!
But I digress. My own goal while raising my sons was that by December 1st I would have lights and tree up with gifts under and cards sent like back in the day of the stay-at-home mom.
But hats off to this “Cat” who refused to go the sinful Amazon route. To Kodiak: if you have cut sugar from your diet, never tell — that would be a permissive white lie. Then when you realize that the rat-race isn't worth it, come home to God's country and such love.
TRUMP promised that this week’s MAGA protest in Washington, D.C. would be “big” and “wild.” Because Trump promised chaos, DC police announced that protesters can’t bring their guns to town, and I wonder how that one is enforceable. The protest is set for Wednesday (January 6)—the day Congress will meet to certify Trump’s election defeat, as Trump's congressional supporters claim in mass photo ops that the vote was rigged.
FORTUNATELY FOR US, Trump isn't nearly as smart as the great fascist coup maestros of yesteryear, both of whom, the big boys of fascism, Hitler and Mussolini, had big support among their militaries, organized thug militias, and police forces before they made their big moves to total power. They also had clear plans about what they wanted to do and smart people around them to get it done. Trump has Trump and 70 million unorganized and un-organizable special ed yobbos who can cause some minor trouble but not enough to keep Trump in the White House. Nevertheless, Wednesday will probably be interesting.
MY WIFE and I, along with international millions, have enjoyed The Crown on Netflix. Perfectly, believably acted, I was most surprised it was so faithful to the known facts, at least the facts known by this anti-monarchist whose interest in Britain's royal family was and is non-existent. I read somewhere that the royals vainly tried to persuade Netflix to print a disclaimer that the series was fiction, which it is mostly but the basic facts displayed are true, everything else is imagined by the writer, Peter Morgan, who is obviously brilliant.
I RAN my impressions of The Crown past Anderson Valley's resident expatriate Brit, Steve Sparks, who replied: “Princess Diana was a virtual Goddess to most Brits and the Royal Family came out of their dealings with her life and death very badly. I imagine she was not as perfect as most would depict her and similarly the Royals not as bad as many would have one believe. I am obviously well aware of the lives of privilege that all these folks enjoy. However, I do admire the Queen, and William and Harry too. I was also fond of Diana. I have pity for Charles. The rest? No thank you very much. As for Churchill, while being aware of his racist and colonialist ways, he was a truly great man of his times.”
COVID, THE SURGE: The staff at Petaluma Valley Hospital is being assisted by three firefighter paramedics from Solano County and six emergency medical technicians from elsewhere in Sonoma County. They arrived this weekend and will be on duty at the hospital for at least 14 days.
FORMER SUPERVISOR NORMAN DEVALL is on the case! What case? Waste Management back-billing its Coast customers: “I don’t believe it is legal without prior notice. They may be able to raise their rates but to go backward in time is, I think, a violation of the basic laws of contracts. Let’s find out…. When next in Fort Bragg I’ll pick up the paperwork for a Small Claims action. To develop “Standing” I first have to phone them, write a letter, then sue. In a Small Claims action neither party is allowed an attorney. Q: Should the County also be named as a Defendant? Did the County give permission to Waste Management to go backward in time without Notice? (No, I’m not an attorney-but I have read a number of contract law cases) — Norman”
Ed note: Gouging of any kind during this declared emergency is supposed to be illegal. Along with these questions about Waste Management's attempt at trash-gouging, we're trying to look into the sudden increases in propane prices.
BOONVILLE GUY, Johnny Schmitt, writes: “So, curious as to how our county deals with Tiny Houses? We should be encouraging this kind of housing, as it is affordable, fairly quick to achieve and leaves a light footprint. Ted?”
THE “TED” referred to is Fifth District supervisor, Ted Williams, but I'd say the answer, to be blunt about it, lies in a cluster of dysfunction involving the supervisors, the county's CEO, the helping professionals as we see arrayed among the preposterous “Continuum of Care's” 31 agencies, and of course the County's privatized, 20-annual-million-dollar mental health apparatus, Mr. and Mrs. Schraeder, proprietors. (Wonder what these two old hippies pull outta that big unsupervised budget?) All of these people are snugly housed and well paid in jobs of undemanding work with no incentive, certainly no leadership, to do anything but what they're now doing — nothing that leads to getting roofs over the heads of the roof-less. Imagine a couple of hundred blind people in a small, doorless room, all of them fumbling for the exit that isn't there. That's county government. (Ukiah government, too, come to think of well-paid, do-nothing civic apparatuses.) Low cost housing, including tiny houses and trailers on county-owned land, both quickly and inexpensively doable, have been discussed, and even discussed excitedly as if something in the way of basic succor for the destitute, and then it all just sorta, like, well gosh, disappeared.
CATCH OF THE DAY, January 4, 2021
MARCELINO ANGUIANO, Ukiah. Evasion/Reckless driving.
JULIE BRAGG, Redwood Valley. Elder abuse resulting in great bodily harm or death, resisting.
LAROY MADDEN-STEPHENS, Willits. Domestic battery, assault with deadly weapon not a gun, recklessly causing a fire that causes great bodily injury, damage to power connection lines, court order violation.
GEORGE MANSFIELD, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation.
JEFF BLANKFORT: The national liberal media blackout of the US war on Julian Assange via its London poodle dogs continues. This AP story about the judge's decision tomorrow on whether or not Assange will be extradited to the US was published in NY's uber right wing Jewish Voice but was not seen as newsworthy by the NY Times or Washington Post. It is clearly an issue that the Democrat party wishes to keep from the public since it would obviously result on Biden and the party leadership to take a position on a critical press freedom case initiated by Obama.
WE'RE ALL MUTTS
Now that the despicable con-man-in-chief appears to be leaving, I can go back to writing letters in my usual mode as a political centrist. I hope my progressive friends don’t take offense.
I abhor identity politics, including racial. It seems most of the country is being subdivided into (often) more than one “identity,” each of which sees the advancement of another as a disadvantage to themselves.
Kamala Harris is considered by race to be Black and East Indian. Her ancestry includes at least one white person, and, as with the rest of us, perhaps others. Alex Padilla is Latino (whatever that means). He appears to be eminently qualified to be a senator and will represent a state with a large Latino population. Many Blacks are outraged at his nomination, as if Harris’ seat has become a Black seat (see Mayor London Breed of San Francisco, etc.).
This is divisive and makes no sense. Biologically, there are no such things as human races. We all have nearly exactly the same DNA. Moreover, why is Harris considered Black when she is also East Indian and white?
All Senate seats should be reserved for mutts.
Jeffrey A. Rapp
IN 2021, THE BEST WAY TO FIGHT NEOFASCIST REPUBLICANS IS TO FIGHT NEOLIBERAL DEMOCRATS
by Norman Solomon
The threat of fascism will hardly disappear when Donald Trump moves out of the White House in two weeks. On Capitol Hill, the Republicans who’ve made clear their utter contempt for democracy will retain powerful leverage over the U.S. government. And they’re securely entrenched because Trumpism continues to thrive in much of the country.
Yet, in 2021, progressives should mostly concentrate on challenging the neoliberalism of Democratic Party leaders. Why? Because the neoliberal governing model runs directly counter to the overarching responsibilities of the left -- to defeat right-wing forces and to effectively fight for a decent, life-affirming society.
Neoliberalism can be defined as a political approach that “seeks to transfer the control of economic factors from the public sector to the private sector” -- and strives to “place limits on government spending, government regulation, and public ownership.” Neoliberalism can be described more candidly as vast, systemic, nonstop plunder.
The plunder is enmeshed in politics. In the real world, economic power is political power. And privatizing political power amounts to undermining democracy.
After four decades of neoliberal momentum, we can see the wreckage all around us: the cumulative effects, destroying uncounted human lives deprived of adequate healthcare, education, housing, economic security and existence free of predatory monetizing. While Republican politicians usually led the wrecking crews, their Democratic counterparts often served as enablers or initiated their own razing projects.
As its policies gradually degrade the standard of living and quality of life for most people, neoliberalism provides a poisonous fuel for right-wing propaganda and demagoguery. Although corporate media outlets routinely assert that “moderate” Democrats are best positioned to block the right’s advances, the corporate-oriented policies of those Democrats -- including trade deals, deregulation and privatization -- have aided rather than impeded far-right faux populism.
In the long run, the realities of rampant income inequalities cannot be papered over -- and neither can the despair and rage they engender. Phony and unhinged as it is, Trumpist extremism offers such rage a populist avenue, paved with a range of vile bigotries and cruelties. When Democrats fail to offer a competing populist avenue, their party is seen as aligned with the status quo. And in this era, the status quo is a political loser.
A myth of U.S. mainstream politics and corporate media is that the most effective way to counteract the political right is to compromise by ideologically moving rightward. When progressives internalize this myth, they defer to the kind of Democratic Party leadership that frequently ends up assisting instead of undermining the Republican Party.
That’s what happened when, as incoming presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama filled their administrations’ top-tier positions with Wall Street movers and shakers, elite big-business consultants and the like. Those appointments foreshadowed major pro-corporate policies -- such as Clinton’s NAFTA trade pact, and Obama’s lavish bailout for huge banks while millions of homeowners saw their houses sink under foreclosure water -- policies that were economically unjust. And politically disastrous. Two years after Clinton and Obama entered the White House, Democrats lost control of Congress in the 1994 and 2010 midterm elections.
Now, there’s scant evidence Joe Biden is looking toward significant structural changes that would disrupt the ongoing trends of soaring wealth for the very few and deepening financial distress or outright desperation for the many. Without massive pressure from progressives, it’s foreseeable that Biden -- like Clinton and Obama -- will run his presidency as a corporate-friendly enterprise without seriously challenging the extreme disparities of economic injustice.
“The stock market is ending 2020 at record highs, even as the virus surges and millions go hungry,” the Washington Post reported. Wall Street succeeded at “enriching the wealthy . . . despite a deadly pandemic that has killed more than 340,000 Americans.”
The reporting came from a newspaper owned by the richest person on earth, Jeff Bezos (who currently has an estimated wealth of $190 billion that he can’t take with him). In a world of so much suffering, the accumulation of such wealth is beyond pathology.
What’s imperative for progressives is not to “speak truth to power” but to speak truth about power -- and to drastically change an economic system that provides humongous wealth to a very few and worsening misery to the countless many.
(Norman Solomon is the national director of RootsAction.org and the author of many books including "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death." He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 and 2020 Democratic National Conventions. Solomon is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.)
I OWE A HUMBLE AND SINCERE APOLOGY to President Donald J. Trump. He was right all along. There HAS been absolutely appalling corruption surrounding the 2020 US Election. In fact, it's so bad that the perpetrator may now face serious criminal charges. There's just one problem for the man in the White House who's been screaming about the corruption: the perpetrator of it… is President Donald J. Trump. I've watched with increasing dismay at the way Trump's thrown his toys out of the stroller since losing the Election, whining and bleating in a way that would embarrass even the most spoiled of babies. But that dismay turned to genuine horror and fury when the Washington Post dropped their bombshell leaked tape yesterday in which he can be heard trying to put the arm on Georgia's secretary of state Brad Raffensperger and governor Brian Kemp like some mafia mob boss. In the shocking hour-long conversation, “Don Trumpone” can be heard threatening, cajoling and pleading with the two Republican officials to do whatever they can to overturn the election result in Georgia. Trump has triggered a national emergency with his outrageous criminal conduct. What's needed right now is Republicans to stop colluding with their corrupt leader like snivelling mob under-bosses - and stand up to him.
— Piers Morgan
GIVING UP THE GHOST
by James Kunstler
Things are shaking loose. Secrets are flying out of black boxes. Shots have been fired. The center is not holding because the center is no longer there, only a black hole where the center used to be, and, within it, the shriekings of lost souls. Will the United States go missing this week, or fight its way out of the chaos and darkness?
Whatever occurs in this strange week of confrontation, Joe Biden will not be leading any part of it. Where has he been since Christmas? Back to hiding in the basement? Did the American people elect a ghost? Even if this storm blows over, could Joe Biden possibly claim any legitimacy in the Oval Office? And then what happens with the rest of the story — which is an epic economic convulsion sharper than the Great Depression — as time is unsuspended and the year 2021 actually unspools?
Only the bare outlines of this week’s fateful game are visible. Mr. Trump has not conceded the election. An action will play out in congress under rarely-used constitutional rules as to how the electoral college votes are awarded to whom. The rancor around this action is already epic. Few of the political players are beyond suspicion of dark deals and shifty allegiances. Persistent rumor has the president laying out a royal flush of deadly information about his antagonists, enough to make heads explode among the formerly cocksure and vaporize the narrative they’ve been running for four years.
A whole lot of people are converging in the nation’s capital at midweek, maybe even the touted million. It is a moment, possibly, not unlike the Bastille in Paris, 1789. They will be clamoring right outside Congress as the electoral vote ceremony proceeds. If the battle is not joined in the chamber, it’s a little hard to believe the crowd will just heave a million sighs, trudge back to their cars, and drive quietly home.
Senator Ted Cruz has come up with a pretty sound plan: a ten-day emergency audit of the balloting with an electoral commission consisting of five Senators, five House Members, and five Supreme Court Justices — to consider and resolve the disputed returns. The proposal is based on the 1877 procedure for resolving the contested Hayes-Tilden election. “Once completed, individual states would evaluate the Commission’s findings and could convene a special legislative session to certify a change in their vote, if needed,” the proposal stated. Naturally, the Democratic Party’s news media handmaidens denounced it as “embarrassing” — which raises the question: who exactly will be embarrassed if the plan goes ahead?
On Sunday, Mr. Trump had a telephone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, ostensibly to discuss efforts made by his office to authenticate the validity of the Nov. 3rd balloting in that state. This is being portrayed by The WashPo, The New York Times, and the rest of the gang as a virtual replay of the Ukraine phone call that eventuated in the 2019 impeachment. Consider that the notorious Ukraine phone call was an attempt to inquire about the influence-peddling of Hunter Biden at the time when his father was vice-president. Does anyone doubt now, a year-and-a-half later, with the release of Hunter B’s laptop evidence, that there was some legitimate concern there? Might anyone suspect that there is also some genuine concern about the Georgia balloting — and Mr. Raffensperger’s failure to audit the vote? Did Mr. Raffensperger stupidly walk into a trap in that phone call? I doubt that the call was casual or impulsive on the president’s part.
What I wonder, given the eerie silence at Joe Biden’s end of things, is whether there is some negotiation underway for Mr. Biden to concede the election before events move forward into official inquiries. I wouldn’t be hugely surprised if that is the case. A US election has never concluded under such an enormous cloud, and with such a show of weakness by the putative winner. Joe Biden is but a ghost in the machine, and the machine is infernally corrupt, and now just about everybody knows it, including the figures fighting so hard to pretend that it isn’t so. Something like a war is underway both within the USA and from without. Mr. Trump is a war president and he’s not shirking his duty. War goes where it will and a genuine leader goes out to meet it where it comes.
(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon page.)
2021 HAS TO BE BETTER
by Matt Taibbi
A year ago this week, I sat in a left corner seat in a school auditorium, watching as presidential candidate Andrew Yang yukked it up with teens at Concord High in New Hampshire.
Yang was a hit. He said he wanted to give sixteen-year-olds a thousand bucks a month, the vote, and legalized weed. He also told them a generation of political leaders had left a sociopolitical “disaster” they would imminently be forced to address. “You could even call it a shit show,” he said (I noted a ripple of teacher applause).
Afterward, I asked about what at the time seemed like a small controversy. The Democratic Party was scheduled to hold a primary debate in Des Moines a few weeks later — on January 14th, 2020, to be exact — and it was beginning to look like Yang, Cory Booker, Tulsi Gabbard, and a host of other viable-ish candidates would be excluded.
The Democratic National Committee had been regularly changing qualification procedures for TV debates. At one point they allowed candidates polling as low as 1%. Now they were insisting on four “qualifying” polls showing 5% support or higher, or two polls showing 7% or more in the early battleground states of Iowa or New Hampshire. Which was fair enough, except there hadn’t been a “qualifying” poll in over a month, since November 17, 2019, in fact.
Yang’s campaign had been a success. His innovative P.R. strategy, led by a core of online #YangGang volunteers, caused the heretofore little-known business figure to become the fifth-largest fundraiser in the fourth quarter of 2019, pulling in $16.5 million.
For context, this was just $6.2 million less than eventual nominee Joe Biden ($22.7 million). The late surge prompted Buzzfeed to write, “Andrew Yang Could Win This Thing.”
The Party didn’t agree. When Yang joined Booker and billionaire Tom Steyer in offering to fund new polls, they told him to suck it. It wasn’t the DNC’s problem. It was, they said, just bad luck that the 16 “qualified” polling organizations, like the New York Times, hadn’t done a survey in a while. “They should do more independent polling,” the Party suggested, in amusing deadpan.
When I asked Yang if he was disappointed, he laughed. “We’re operating on the assumption the debate doesn’t exist… Besides, all of this stuff ahead of time historically hasn’t made the determination,” he said. “You know what has? Voters.”
I liked Yang personally — he’s a rare genuinely funny politician — but was mostly agnostic about his campaign, ironically apart from his attitude about things like this. Unlike many politicians, whose aides constantly whisper off the record about the various wrongs done to their candidate, Yang embraced the long odds of his campaign, seeming to take it for granted that the institutional deck would be stacked against him. He figured just having a fair shot with voters was reason enough to be optimistic, and why not? At that moment in time a year ago, the persuasive authority of institutional America seemed at its nadir.
An impeachment drama cooked up by the Party and relentlessly propagandized by mainstream news would prove a massive dud, both politically and from a ratings perspective.
Legacy press outlets resorted to writing explainer pieces about why the public wasn’t as mesmerized as it should be, with the L.A. Times noting that “sobriety and clarity” were “a hard sell in an ecosystem where escapism and mirrored reality are the currency.” New York explained that Nielsen ratings didn’t account for people “checking in periodically on a C-SPAN stream.”
There were many similar stories written to explain the impeachment drama’s lack of impact on Donald Trump’s poll numbers.
Worse, it was looking like the nominees for the general election would be two oft-denounced op-ed targets in Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. A string of efforts by a panicking political elite to restore order failed, from the silly debate scam, to scare tales about Vladimir Putin scheming for Bernie (as well as Trump), to a half-baked smear campaign about Sanders allegedly telling Elizabeth Warren “a woman can’t win” — a story reported as fact by all the usual media suspects that the public roundly disbelieved — to a far more serious effort to buy the Democratic nomination outright through the bluntly obnoxious campaign of Mike Bloomberg. The year 2020, in other words, looked destined to be the climax of a long-developing story about the collapse of public faith in the pronouncements of America’s most powerful institutions: the news media, the two political parties, the medical and pharmaceutical establishments, the intelligence services, Wall Street, etc.
I was skeptical that anything would change much, but it did seem the public’s snowballing alienation was moving to a new phase. Genuinely interesting ways to re-think society might now be embraced.
Yang was symbolic of this. Though I didn’t necessarily buy his guaranteed income scheme, it was fascinating to hear how many people in places like New Hampshire were open to the concept. As was made clear in 2016, huge numbers of people were and are increasingly open to anything. Like Ice Cube, a lot of Americans were broke, their feet hurt, and they were “Down For Whatever.”
The clear subtext of the last half-decade of political upheaval has been rising impatience with how difficult it has become to enjoy things once considered the basics of life. Young people leave school saddled in debt, consider themselves lucky if they get health insurance, and are usually so far from being able to imagine owning their own homes or having real professional security that marriage or children seem like absurd, unattainable luxuries.
For older people further along in life, the logistical challenges of mere living have become so outrageous that many have committed to Dickensian work regimes, only to discover that in America, even working overtime costs money. You take a second job to pay for the child care necessitated by the first, and the little ancillary costs that seemed not so serious once — from DMV fees to getting a stove repaired to parking — now trigger a pucker factor just to consider. That’s without even taking into account all the various near-automatically bankrupting endgames built into the American experience that most people try as much as possible not to think about: serious illness, an elderly relative forced into care, divorce, surprise legal problems, etc.
The fact that a year ago, anyone thought it made sense to tell the millions of people forced daily to navigate all this stupidity that they needed to focus on a labyrinthine political controversy in Ukraine — and to blast them for deficits of “sobriety and clarity” when they didn’t — told you everything you needed to know about the cluelessness of the people who run this country.
Then the pandemic happened.
No conspiracy theories are necessary to point out that all of the institutions Americans were in the process of rejecting just a year ago have since increased their power and influence. Be it opportunism or coincidence, the international emergency has written a dramatic heel turn into our history.
A sweeping Fed-based rescue program resulted in enormous booms in asset values, allowing America’s wealthiest to increase their net worth by nearly a trillion dollars since the start of the pandemic (in mid-summer, American billionaires were collectively earning $42 billion per week). The disease pummeled people who actually had to travel to work, while empowering conglomerates like Amazon, which tripled its profits in the third quarter alone. Most of our lives are online now, an ironic reward to intelligence services that went unpunished after illegal surveillance programs were disclosed in the Obama years.
After all that upheaval, the White House is about to be re-occupied by a political fossil from the eighties, surrounded by a zombie cabinet of Iraq War supporters, drone assassination proponents, corporate lawyers, lobbyists, and neoliberal economists, coming from places like Amazon, DuPont, and Raytheon (the Pentagon appointment of the current Henry Kissinger Chair from the Center from Strategic and International Studies was a nice homage to the unchangingly vile character of America’s royal court). How bad any of this is in comparison with the chaotic presidency of Donald Trump is arguable, but it surely represents the triumph of Sameness, a powerful reminder that in America, you ultimately can’t beat City Hall. Or can you?
The news in recent years often reads like accounts of America before the Sixties upheavals. That was also a time when long-held myths were rapidly losing force and people were beginning to question the palate of life choices celebrated in places like the Book of the Month Club and Life magazine. Men wondered why they were being sent around the world to kill poor people, only to come home to what Paul Goodman described as a “style of life dictated by Personnel… to work to pay installments on a useless refrigerator.”
Women had it worse, consigned to tend house and give themselves nightly as a reward for men who’d completed their “covenant of murder” in places like Vietnam. Spirituality in much of Jim Crow America was a superficial weekly injunction to conformity at archaic churches and temples, while our real religion, consumerism, became a constant devotional exercise, bolstered by a thousand dazzling commercials for products that people began to realize fulfilled every conceivable need, but the most important.
We’re in such a similar place, and though America’s political leaders learned a great deal from those times — the list of absurd Woke Headlines run here a few days ago chronicles the extremely clever effort to commoditize and sell the desire for political action that had no permissible outlet in the sixties — the reality is, if you keep giving people nothing but crappy choices, they’ll eventually write their own story, even if they can’t do it through voting.
Americans are tired. The rancorous politics they’ve been sold as bread-and-circus diversions are tiring, not laughing is tiring, having too much work and too little money is tiring, being stuck inside now is tiring, even being sexually frustrated is tiring (look at the stats on that one sometime, if you want insight into why so many Americans seemed a tad touchy in recent years). The most exhausting part is the mandate to take it all seriously. Unfortunately for America’s leaders, that’s the easiest part to change, which is why 2021 feels like such a good candidate to be the year things finally begin turning in a happier direction.
Distortions on CNN or in the New York Times drive people crazy, but that’s only because they remember trusting those sources. They’ll forget soon and learn to walk right past mass media blather as if it were just amusingly terrible wallpaper, the way Soviets eventually did with Pravda and Izvestia. Student debt is crushing and college is an overpriced scam, but a reckoning of sorts is coming when people stop being ashamed of vocational school. Facebook and Instagram turbocharged the impact of fear-based “ring around the collar”-style marketing, but what happens when the pandemic recedes and going offline is possible again? Throwing off worries about likes and rediscovering real-life interaction feels destined to become a fashionable dissident statement, in the same way tuning in, turning on, and “dropping out” was an obvious response to the stultifying conformity of the fifties.
Watching billionaires get richer and all the discredited vultures of the War on Terror and financial crisis eras sweep back into power is a bummer, but the tighter those people grip the reins, the more inevitable a counterculture feels. Who knows what that will look like, but it’ll probably be based on friends, family, and other things you can’t buy, and surely kinder and less maddening than the stress-packed world we’ve been asked to live in. My New Year’s resolution is to start living that other life sooner rather than later, after I check Twitter one last time, of course.
THREAT TO JOURNALISM REMAINS, Warn Critics, After Assange
Extradition Rejected Solely Due to Brutal US Prison System
"We disagree with the judge's assessment that this case is not politically motivated, that it's not about free speech," said Vincent. "We continue to believe that Mr. Assange was targeted for his contributions to journalism, and until the underlying issues here are addressed, other sources, journalists, and publishers remain at risk."
AS MY CASE SHOWS, you don't have to be on the right to be attacked this way. I've heard from many people, professors at other schools, who've had their slings and arrows, had those shots at them, risked getting fired. Some have been fired. And they're long-time left people, but... the left today is… not the left that I remember, that I have long considered myself part of, which is antiwar, which is about rectifying grotesque income inequality, strengthening the working class, certainly civil rights… Those are, I see them as left issues. Many of them are also libertarian issues. So what the left has now become is a pro-censorship army. It wants censorship, so the left has changed immensely, and I think that I'm sort of a casualty of that.
— Mark Crispin Miller
ON LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK
skies, lonely winds and endless cold. I love all three of those things in principle, but I can feel there’s going to be a downturn in the general American psyche this year. A collective seasonal depression begins for the nation. The things to look forward to have passed, and we’re left with…blah. Soon, even the enthusiastic and empowered Biden voter bloc (or especially them?) will come to be disaffected by the choice they were given and the lack of something good to be found there. More businesses down, more freedoms willingly given away, the likely shocking number of vaccination side effect horror stories that will seep out and then be softly quashed by the msm…spring may feel good for a few days as the air smells refreshingly hopeful, but people will not feel fulfilled and rejuvenated as they once did. Or…hell, maybe it’s that I lost the fantasy football championship yesterday and I’m feeling a bit pessimistic this morning. Either way, get some sun (where you can find it), exercise (where you can do so without getting hypothermia), and take your vitamins. Gonna be a strange winter.
 Donald Trump was/is a modern version of the old ink-blot test. What image do you see in all that muddled ink splat? Savior? Devil? Business tycoon? Huckster? Preserver of America? Destroyer of America? That boss you always hated? Fulfiller of prophecy? Bankruptcy king?
What he was/is remains the same of what he always is: A ceaseless self-promoter who seems HIMSELF in all things and does everyone with the goal in mind of helping himself or a member of cherished set of family members and insiders and enablers and lackeys.
Drain the Swamp? Lock her up? All those big promises along the way? All of that playing up to the cheering, adoring crowds of fans and worshipers? His real score card: A great big flop. Just like Obama was to his same kind of crowd of sad worshipers and lackeys.
As for President Trump, “has ever a president been lonelier at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave?” Maybe not, but he has only himself to blame. When you spend four years insulting everyone and everything around you then it’s no surprise when no one is there to come to your aid when you need help. Instead, it’s “Payback Time!” And all of these many targets of Trump’s ire are now relishing their chance to stick it to him in every way possible.
There is something to this thing… working together. Compromise, the good kind. Treating people with respect (even if they don’t “deserve” it). Acting the leader. Leading by example.
Did Mr. Trump do any of these things? No, not when there’s all those people to attack on social media platforms endlessly all day. And who suffers most? Sure, Trump does. But his supporters suffer worse. They believe/believed in this man. They took four years of abuse from friends and family for this man. They placed their faith in this man. And he left them down. Oh sure, supporters may blame the Evil Dems and Gutless Reps who did not work with Trump. And they do get their big share of the blame. But bottom line, you reap what you sow. Trump sowed chaos and anger and smirking and working angles to bring benefit to his insiders for four years and now it’s harvest time of a tarnished legacy and millions of heartbroken and disillusioned supporters who still wear red caps and want to believe… because they have nothing else left to believe in.
 There will be no uprising from the heavily-armed, Punisher-decal, tactical flashlight owning chuds who FB post about the stolen election. No, they’ll continue to fart into their Barcaloungers whilst staying fat, stupid and entertained. They’ve been cosplaying as Timmy Toughnuts Gadsen flag wavers for years and they’ll continue the posturing ad infinitum.
 Evangelical, fundamentalist, Baptist FAKE Christians put Trump in power believing his drain the swamp build the wall ad nauseum lies. The majority kicked him out of office for being a self-serving, golfing, “don’t need to read even a single page intelligent briefing” incessant liar. That’s what happened to America in 2020. Try telling the 346,000 folks who lost family to Covid “symptoms” the stats were overblown. BTW that’s 2.6 times as many per/capita deaths as any other G7 country.
 Here’s a prediction for you: Collapse of the Internet Culture. The internet was a great thing when it first came along. Now, it’s turned into a sewer and shaming prison and grand person erasure device. Beyond that, it is The Internet which allows people to not go into school or the office or the store or to meet up with other people. Without the Net, we’d all have to do those real-people-oriented things again. In other words, we would become human again. The internet is sucking the life out of humanity. It will either continue to do so until nothing of us remains, or the damn thing will be shoved back into its cage for bad behavior and be taught how to serve us humanely.