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RAIN CHANCES will slowly be on the increase today as a Northeast Pacific trough axis sags south and taps into sub-tropical moisture, setting up a long-duration IVT plume with a prolonged period of moderate to locally heavy rainfall, gusty southerly winds and high elevation snow. (NWS)
29 NEW CASES OF COVID were reported Friday in Mendocino County, along with another death.
JOHNS HOPKINS reported Friday that a total of 164,665 new coronavirus infections were reported with a seven-day rolling average of 158,739, a 30% decline from the average three weeks earlier. Hospitalizations have fallen 21% from a peak on January 6th to 104,303, the lowest since December 8th. Currently, 44 states are seeing a decline in cases with just Connecticut, Kansas and Rhode Island trending upward. Roughly 7.9% people have received at least one shot of the vaccine and an estimated 26% of the population recovered from the virus, while as many as one-third of Americans could have some kind of herd immunity. California recorded its second-highest number of deaths, but the nearly 17,000 new cases reported on Thursday are about one-third the mid-December peak of 54,000. In New York, 13,398 new infections with 5.34% test positivity rate, were recorded - down from the record of more than 19,000 cases. Deaths continue to remain high, with a total of 3,872 deaths recorded on Friday, but because it is a lagging indicator, it is expected to remain high for several weeks even as cases drop.
HAMBURGER SATURDAY at Yorkville Market Tomorrow, Saturday 1/30, we will be cooking Hamburgers to order (and Veggie Burgers and Portobello Burgers!) from 12:00pm until close.
Call in at 894-9456 or drop by to pick up the best burgers in town. This week we have cottage pies as our take and bake. Enjoy the rain!
STATEMENT FROM UKIAH POLICE CHIEF JUSTIN WYATT REGARDING FORMER SERGEANT KEVIN MURRAY
As many of you are aware, a Ukiah Police Sergeant has been charged with a number of serious criminal violations. Today (Friday) the internal investigation into this matter is concluded. Kevin Murray is no longer employed with the Ukiah Police Department. I may speak to this. So I want to take the opportunity to share with the community some of the details of how the department handled this. We first learned of this potential misconduct in late November and we reacted right away. We placed Murray on leave in accordance with our policy and with personnel law. We reached out to the District Attorney immediately and we asked for a criminal investigation into Murray's conduct the evening of November 25.
The Department has remained fully transparent with the District Attorney within the limits of the law as both the criminal investigation and the formal internal investigation progressed. I am sharing this information with the community today because I want the community to know that we acted swiftly and it is because we took this matter seriously and the manner in which it was handled that Murray is now answering in the criminal court for his actions. Both the community and the Department look forward to a resolution within the criminal justice system that holds Murray accountable for his behavior. Let me reiterate, there is no question police conduct must be of the highest standards. We must have the confidence and trust of the community that we protect. The conduct in this case in no way reflects the standards of the city of Ukiah or the Ukiah Police Department. The law enforcement profession demands integrity so there is no room in public service and there must be no tolerance for the behavior that was portrayed that evening. As your police chief, let me say the department joins with the community in the rejection of this behavior and the shock and disappointment being felt about this. I would like to remind the community that this individual's actions are absolutely not a reflection of the hard-working men and women of the Ukiah Police Department. We remain committed to this community and to providing the highest level of law-enforcement services. Thank you.
HIRE MORE DEPUTIES
The following letter was submitted to the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors on January 17, 2021. Meanwhile, the Sheriff pulled his proposal and will resubmit it soon.
If you have concerns, especially about the need to return to community-based deputies, I recommend you send a note to your county supervisor at 501 Low Gap Road, Room 1090, Ukiah California 95482. Or call 463-4221; fax 463-4245 or e-mail email@example.com.
You can communicate with Sheriff Matt Kendall's office at 951 Low Gap Road in Ukiah, 95482. Or call 463-4085, fax 463-4517 or e-mail sheriff@mendocinoSheriff.org
* * *
Please consider my comments in support of the Sheriff's request for ten additional deputies.
For years the Sheriff's office has worked with too few deputies. The last roster increase was a long time ago when we were a different county.
I was present when extensive factual evidence of the problem was given more than once to the prior Board of supervisors by Sheriff Tom Allman. In addition, recruitment and retention has been hampered by low salaries. The department has the burden of training and then loses new hires to higher-paying departments elsewhere.
The prior board was fully aware of the problem but did not secure the money to correct it. This is a foundational issue that has been left to drift with consequences.
Insufficient numbers of deputies requires overtime for normal operation and more of it in a crisis. This style of operation was forced on the department. It is neither prudent nor economical to run public safety on overtime dollars. Future crises will occur and the costly consequences will continue to mount.
Insufficient deputies doing overtime is a gambling proposition. The Fatigue from long hours has a cost. We need deputies to be alert, not tired, irritable and overworked.
A prime example of unwanted impact:
For years Mendocino County residents enjoyed the protection of community-based deputies. The department was very proud of this forward thinking component. Covelo, the South Coast and Anderson Valley all had resident deputies.
In our experience in Anderson Valley, residents thrived under the protection of their local deputies. The officers were competent, fair handed and very compassionate. Living here they participated in the community activities. They donated many off-duty hours of programs for children and youth as well as local fundraising for charitable needs. They were prompt to respond to a call. Common sense advises us of the positive and preventive value of such programs.
Approximately seven years ago crime, mainly cannabis and drug related, increased. Community officers were diverted to work the greater Ukiah area or beyond.
The insufficient staff problem caused Anderson Valley to lose its valuable community deputy. Pleas from the Anderson Valley Unity Club, the Community Action Coalition and many individuals were answered most apologetically by Sheriff Allman with, "We don't have the money -- they are needed elsewhere." In Anderson Valley we have signs of unraveling. Yet we are relatively fortunate. Pleas from Covelo are heart-rendering. They need help now! Lawlessness seems to be metastasizing.
Community-based policing needs to be reestablished, especially for its preventive, cost-effective nature. That can only happen with more deputies on the force.
Sheriff Kendall has recorded the increasing crime levels. The reality is growing lawlessness. As private citizens many of us are living with it and cowed by fears of retaliation. Few wish to see any slower or more ineffective response times. You drive the roads more than most so you know the time it takes to get from Ukiah to the rest of the County. All citizens deserve a timely and appropriate deputy response.
Vigilante Behavior in Mendocino County:
Anger and fear have grown because of the lack of will or ability to establish needed timely appropriate deputy response. The recent act by vigilantes is a desperate and dangerous consequence of this fear and anger.
The Sheriff was transparent and responsible when he reported this act to the Board. The public also deserved to know and to reflect on its meaning and consequences. No human being deserves such treatment. Any reasonable person would be unnerved by this uncontrolled solution driven by frustration, anger and fear. However, such behavior follows by what has been allowed to occur by not properly funding the Sheriff’s office. Vigilantism is direct, irrefutable evidence of the impact of increased criminal activity and the inability of the Sheriff's office to be promptly respondive to citizen reports or requests.
Fires, earthquakes, storms, floods and landslides are a real part of the Mendocino landscape. In any such crisis someone of authority is quickly required throughout the county. Deputies provide the needed authority for controlled road evacuation so vital to public safety and first responders.
Lastly, you have been given a letter asserting that it "represents the citizens of Mendocino County." It does not. It represents 54 people who also seem verbal and angry. Now we have a spate of “word vigilantism.”
I have a strong feeling that the citizens of Mendocino are so diverse that we cannot join under a common banner and jointly petition you. But you know that a substantial majority wish to live without fear under the rule of law. Without adequate and appropriate enforcement such a wish quickly fades, increasing the varied feelings that lead to vigilante behavior.
The consequence of a depleted police force is real and frightening to some. If you defund anymore you will have no force at all. You cannot have quality health and human services or any quality-of-life if you cannot guarantee safety.
In closing, public policy should be based on established facts, supported by quality assessment of what serves the greatest common good. Public policy should never be based on negative personal attacks or character assassination.
I heartily and respectfully support Sheriff Kendall’s funding request. I have no affiliation with the Sheriff’s department. I am merely a concerned citizen.
FORT BRAGG AREA CUSTOMERS of the Arizona-based trash conglomerate Waste Management Inc. have yet another reason to be upset about the company lately. Not only did they impose a retroactive rate increase which probably violates their contract with the county, and which presumably is the subject of a lawsuit filed by former Fifth District Supervisor Norman de Vall, but now we are hearing that the branches and leaves and grass clippings that are put in WMI’s "green waste" pickup bins is just being tossed into the trash with the plastic bags and used diapers. "We go to all the trouble to separate it and dispose of it in the expectation that it will be composted or otherwise safely disposed of," one resident told us this week. “And now we find out that they're treating it as ordinary garbage."
FRANK JAMES & ANDERSON VALLEY
Archie “Arch” Clement, who rode with the notorius Frank and Jesse James may have had ties to Boonville, Anderson Valley, California by way of a family relative by the name of Ed (Squirrel) Clement. The ongoing rumor for years has been that Frank James, while hiding out from the law after the failed Minnasota raid, was indeed here.
Sharky Rawles, a decendant of the Rawles pioneer family, one of the first families to settle in Anderson Valley, recalled his father telling him that Frank James was here. His father would tell of meeting and the conversations he had with Frank James.
These recollections, even years after the fact, always came with a great deal of caution when spoken about and sometimes his father would even use a word or two of Boontling to keep the secret a secret from possible eavsdroppers who might be within earshot.
In an odd coincidence, it is believed that “Boontling” originated from a couple of characters by the name of Ed (Squirrel) Clement and Lank McGimsey.
Makes one wonder if Ed Clement came up with the idea of a secret language to hide the truth about Frank James hiding out in Anderson Valley?
“Look, I’m going to have to ask for the money back — the rich are really getting pissed off.”
YIPPEE! Johnson & Johnson’s long-awaited one-shot vaccine works. J&J’s jab prevents 72% of Covid in the US tests and is up to 66% effective in Brazil and South Africa where “super-covid” variants are spreading. J&J's vaccine would be the world's first one-dose COVID-19 vaccine when it is authorized by regulators.
AS I READ Jim Shield's account of the vandalism to the Laytonville water plant he manages, I thought what I've thought for years now, that our social ties, never wrapped all that tight to begin with, have irreparably snapped. Jim's a long-time journalo-colleague, providing savvy coverage of local government for years now via his essential weekly, The Mendocino County Observer. He manages to produce the Observer and oversee Laytonville's water system, both crucial functions tending to be taken for granted thanks to a guy as reliable as sun rise. So a couple of weeks ago when one of the many free range, drug-fueled transients careening around the county, and up and down Highway 101, broke into the Laytonville water plant looking for whatever the deranged think they can convert to cash, his search wrecked the place until it resembled the spiritual him, a person damaged beyond repair.
Used to be a burglar might have broken in only to take something of tangible value, not spent his rage wrecking the entire community's resource. (Water quality was unaffected, fortunately, but not for lack of trying.) There's an army of the enraged out there wandering around. If you had a tape of their lives from birth you'd probably understand how they got to nihilism by the time they were ten, and by eighteen, look out.
WHICH BRINGS US to Measure B, passed by a large majority of county voters to corral the damaged ones in a safe and maybe even rehabilitative place, but what is really only a matter of caring for people unable or unwilling to care for themselves, a community responsibility once assumed most places by a county farm, is, here in Mendocino County, immediately mired in confusion, so mired it will be a minor miracle if even a six-bed respite is ever created.
THURSDAY ABOUT NOON, at the corner of Talmage and Big Box, Ukiah, a toothless woman raged at passing vehicles. She had all her stuff in a shopping cart and there she was, standing in the rain blasting out her incoherent pain, a woman created by horrors we'd rather not contemplate, but a perfect symbol of the kind of society we've become, right here in a lightly populated county with 31 lushly funded entities calling itself “The Continuum of Care.”
RECOMMENDED VIEWING, Elizabeth is Missing, a true Masterpiece masterpiece in which Glenda Jackson plays Maud Horsham, an elderly English woman suffering from dementia. It's a memorably astounding performance by a great actress, and must viewing by anyone with an elderly relative or friend no longer in full possession.
IT LOOKS LIKE Governor Newsom will face a recall election, which he will win because it is impossible to unseat a Democrat in a statewide California election. If the blithely hypocritical Newsom were up for a vote in, say, Glenn County he'd be outta there for sure.
“SYSTEMIC RACISM” can be added to the big book of phrases-become-meaningless by promiscuous use by unserious people. Systemic racism won't be, can't be, meaningfully addressed by this system. It's tossed around as if the very real systemic racism characteristic of this system from the git can be eliminated short of a major reorganization of this economy, and the way this cookie is crumbling, there won't be much of a system left to eliminate its racism.
OXFAM'S report that the world's top ten multi-billionaires could vaccinate everyone in the world out of last year's profits, estimated at half a trillion dollars, even seemed to discombobulate the chuckle buddies of tv's evening news. “Gosh, here's a statistic…” Etc.
STOCKING up on granola the other morning at the Ukiah Co-Op, a grocery store that just keeps on getting better, my oats and whey were handed to me in a bag inscribed, “We believe good food brings us together.” I don't get it. If good food brought us together then unity is simply a matter of t-bones for everyone. But I've never understood this constant refrain, always outta the libs, to “bring us together.” Can't we simply “Celebrate diversity”? Or at least tolerate it.
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON is one of the 44 schools to be renamed in San Francisco by the city's historically illiterate school board. Robert Louis Stevenson. I don't know how many more boggles I can jam into my boggled mind, but I'll make room for this one.
CLOSER TO HOME, we understand that at least two Bipocs want to be appointed to the vacant seat on the Fort Bragg City Council. FB's Bipocs — “Black, Indigenous and other people of color” — are related to San Francisco's cancel culture in their zeal to convert America's vividly bloody history to an endless tale of unicorns and puppies. If you came in late to the Mendocino Coast's endless theater of the absurd, these Bipocs, most of whom are white, want to change Fort Bragg's name to erase what they see as the town's unrelievedly grim history. There's zero enthusiasm for a name change among most Fort Braggers, which is probably why the Bipocs don't gather signatures to put the name change to a vote.
ACCORDING TO POLITICO, Biden is looking at creating a commission to study reforms to the Supreme Court, which could pave the way for “court packing” to out-vote the majority conservative justices. Multiple people familiar with the matter told Politico that the bipartisan commission would fall under the White House Counsel's office and would look at recommending changes to the federal judiciary overall, not just the Supreme Court.
UNITY CLUB ZOOM FEB 4TH 1:30PM
by Miriam Martinez
Hello, It took awhile, but we finally got our January rains. Is everyone excited that February is just days away? Am I the only one that February snuck up on? January just flew by and I bet February will too since it only has 28 days. Speaking of February, next Thursday, February 4 is our Unity Club meeting. We are fortunate to have Sheriff Matt Kendall as our guest speaker. We will convene at 1:30 PM, and following his presentation we will allow time for questions. And, of course, we will be meeting via Zoom. The link for the Zoom meeting is below; thank you to Arline Bloom for arranging for the Zoom connection and she will facilitate the meeting.
We hope to have good attendance. Feel free to extend this invitation along to your friends and neighbors. Zoom limits the number of connections that we have for the meeting, so please RSVP to Arline. Also, we will be on Mute during the bulk of the presentation and are requesting that you e-mail your questions to Arline ahead of the meeting. Also, there will be availability during the meeting to submit a question via the "Chat" icon. However, having questions ahead of time will be helpful. If you have questions about the Zoom meeting or have questions for Sheriff Kendal, contact Arline.
Following the presentation, we will have a brief business meeting. If you have agenda items or comments about the agenda that you would like to discuss before the meeting, let me know. The agenda is below:
- Call to Order/ Pledge
- Approval of Minutes
- Treasurer's Report
- Committee Reports
- Unfinished Business - Club Internet Use; Budget Planning
- New Business
Look forward to seeing you at the meeting on Thursday. Hope you are doing well, staying healthy and finding ways to support yourself and friends during this time.
Janet Lombard, President; Val Muchowski, Vice; Grace Espinoza, Vice; Cindy Wilder, Treasurer; Ann Wakeman, Secretary
UKIAH STREETSCAPE PROJECT CONSTRUCTION UPDATE - January 29th
At the time of email, providing the weather forecast holds true, we’re expecting to be able to resume construction activities on Wednesday, February 3rd.
The project is really going to take shape over the next few months. Curious about what that will look like? For detailed plans (including landscaping), please visit www.cityofukiah.com/streetscape/businesses/.
Perkins to Mill Street
Wahlund Construction (Clay – Seminary):
Monday-Tuesday: No work likely, due to rain.
Wednesday-Friday: Wahlund Construction will trench across State Street between Master Cleaners and Bank of America and will work on undergrounding the electric utilities from Seminary to the south.
Construction hours: 6am – 5pm
Ghilotti Construction (Perkins – Clay):
Beginning Wednesday, Feb. 3rd, Ghilotti will be saw-cutting pavement and removing trees between Clay and Perkins on the east side of State Street, moving from south to north. Parking/sidewalks will be impacted on the east side during this period of construction, but access to all businesses will be maintained during business hours. Saw-cutting is noisy and may generate some dust.
Construction Hours: 7am – 5pm
Hope everyone has a great weekend!
Shannon Riley, Deputy City Manager, w: (707) 467-5793
CATCH OF THE DAY, January 29, 2021
JULIAN ARMAS JR., Ukiah. Probation revocation.
GREGORY CRUMPLER, Ukiah. Burglary, offenses while on bail, failure to appear.
ANTHONY LOPES, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation. (Frequent Flyer)
MATTHEW MONTGOMERY, Ukiah. Domestic battery.
SEFERINO NUNEZ-LEON, Redwood Valley. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, resisting.
LEONEL VALENZUELA II, Ukiah. DUI-drugs&alcohol, assaut with deadly weapon not a gun, domestic battery, domestic abuse with priors, false imprisonment, manufacturing or importing short barrelled rifle, cultivation of more than six pot plants, controlled substance, pot possession for sale, protective order violation, firearm possession by convict, conspiracy, felon with firearm.
MY HOUSEMATE IS MISSING: Dementia in the Time of the Pandemic
by Jonah Raskin
The other day, my housemate thought she saw flames on the adjoining property. She called the fire department in Cotati, California where we live. Two fire trucks arrived with fire fighters loaded for bear. The only problem was that there was no fire. It was a false alarm. My housemate, whom I’ll call Gretel, has been fined $2,500. She’s fighting it, or rather her daughter, whom she could not live without, is fighting it.
Gretel is 85, has short term memory loss and suffers from dementia, a brain disease that comes with aging and that affects some 50 million people worldwide. It can play havoc with families like Gretel’s and individuals like Gretel herself who suffer from it. I have written about dementia in order to humanize it.
Over the past several decades, it has been mapped and explored by caregivers and by the patients they have helped in part by making the disease less of a stigma. The titles of works include, “My Mad Dad,” “Remember” and “I’m Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Patient with Dementia.” (See the website, Alzauthors.com) While there is no known cure, essays and stories about it seem to reduce anxieties and fears.
I pray I don’t get it, though I know I might. I’d hate to lose my mind and be like Gretel, who is typical in many ways of women her generation. Born in the Pacific Northwest in the 1930s, she is imbued to this day with the mindset of the Depression. Psychologically, she doesn’t know abundance, but rather scarcity, though in reality she lacks nothing. She has also been diagnosed as depressed. Some days she seems catatonic.
The only times I’ve heard her laugh are the times when she’s on the phone talking with an old friend, sometimes from girlhood. Then she seems genuinely happy. But these days, in large part because of the pandemic, she has fewer and fewer friends. Over the course of the four decades that I have known her, she has not had a single male friend, though she clearly loved her father, Martin, and her brother, Gary.
I’m not sure if she loved her husband, Bill. They were stuck with one another, so entwined it was impossible to disentangle. Once when we were on vacation together she invited me to keep an eye on her and her husband and tell her what I noticed about their relationship. I declined to do so.
One might call Gretel “a woman identified woman.” She never took her husband’s last name and she never defined herself as a “wife.” When she looks back at human history she’s sure that in the beginning matriarchy prevailed. Once patriarchy arrived on the scene, it was all downhill, with wars, oppression and all kinds of inequalities.
At times I’m angry about my own living situation, which I have helped to create, though I know it’s also beyond my control. When my anger rears up, I tell myself, “It’s not about Gretel. It’s about you.” Still, it’s challenging not to point an accusing finger. Once, I stood a foot from Gretel and asked, “What do I do with the garbage.” She averted my gaze and said, “Are you talking to me?” When she doesn’t seem to know who I am, and when the living room and kitchen, which we are supposed to share, feel like enemy territory I go to my room, close the door, write, read, talk on the phone, email, Zoom, sleep and dream.
When I first talked to Gretel about renting a room in her house — because my landlord evicted me and I needed a place to stay — she said, “I’m afraid you’ll see me as I am and won’t like me anymore.” I once liked her a lot. A wise woman and a psychotherapist, she shared insights about people we both knew. She also tolerated unconventional behavior. Young women sought her company and she sought theirs. Her house was a sanctuary for the wounded and the beautiful. That’s one reason I flocked to it. Also because her husband was a lawyer who defended drug dealers. I was a journalist writing about them. In those days, Gretel called herself a “moll” and seemed to enjoy the role.
Living in the same space with Gretel over the past twelve months has felt like being in “suspended animation.” My friend, Marie, used those two words to describe my situation. “Suspended animation is when you feel time has stopped,” she explained. She added, “Living through the pandemic one can feel suspended between life and death.” The pandemic and dementia together have been a double whammy.
Gretel and I have lived with COVID-19 from the moment I moved into her house. We have worn masks, practiced social distancing and washed hands frequently. We have both been tested negative. In the early days of the pandemic, Gretel would take off her mask inside a supermarket and hug a friend she recognized. Not anymore. She has learned some things, not others.
Over the course of the last year, she has written in longhand a dozen or so stories that seem to be autobiographical. They are to a jigsaw puzzle in which pieces are lost or missing. Nothing adds up to a coherent picture. I offered to type Gretel’s stories on my computer. “No,” she said, though I am not sure why. Perhaps she doesn’t want me to have that much perceived control over her life.
Everything in her house is topsy-turvey. Nothing stays in the same place for long, which means that Gretel can rarely put her hands on what she wants: purse, eyeglasses, phone, broom and the remote for the TV, which she watches at least three-hours a day.
She’s also on her computer, usually from the moment she gets up in the morning to just before going to bed at night. Still, she doesn’t yet get the hang of email, websites and the Internet, though her daughter and I have explained them repeatedly. “What are you doing on your computer?” I asked one day. “Nothing,” she said. Maybe she simply stares at the screen. She certainly doesn’t answer my emails.
When Gretel wants to communicate with me she usually writes notes on small pieces of paper and leaves them where she thinks I might see them, on the edge of the kitchen sink or near the toilet. Sometimes I do see the notes and sometimes they get lost in the chaos which feels like it grows larger by the day. To get around the house, Gretel uses walking sticks. Some are store bought and others are branches from trees that she has found on her seven-acre farm. She now has at least fifty sticks, as though the more she has the safer she will be. That seems delusional.
Fear dominates much of her life, including the fear that criminals will break into the house. She makes sure the doors are locked before she goes to sleep. “I’m locking up.” Those are the last words she speaks to me at the end of the day. Losing “it,” losing control, seems to be what she fears most of all. Surely, on some level she knows she’s lost a lot of it. Her daughter took away the keys to her car and won’t let her drive. Neither will her doctors.
For a long time, I had no reality check for my experiences with Gretel. Then I watched Elizabeth is Missing, the Masterpiece drama in which Glenda Jackson plays Maud Horsham, an elderly English woman with dementia who aims to solve two mysteries even as she sinks deeper and deeper into her illness. Jackson inhabits the role and gives a brilliant performance. It’s probably the best of her decades-long career.
My housemate and Maud have some things in common, including bewilderment about what one might call “reality,” but my housemate could never solve a mystery. She is a mystery. Why she does certain things, like leave the doors to the house open, when it’s cold outside, or why she refuses to turn on the heat, when she’s shivering, are a mystery to me and to her daughter and her son-in-law who live next door and who know and understand much of what I’m going through.
“My mother is the mystery you have to solve,” Gretel’s daughter told me. She knows my own murder mysteries, one of which I wrote in my little room here on the farm. Gretel served as the model for the mother in the book.
When I moved into her house I didn’t know what I was getting into, though I had known her for about forty-years. Her husband died two years ago. A stroke damaged his brain. I visited him in the facility that housed men and women who had lost their minds. He might have recognized me, though we never had a conversation. The stroke deprived him of the ability to speak.
Now, I live in what was his office, which feels haunted by his ghost and some of the ghosts of my own past. Nearly all my life, I have lived with old people and people who are dying, beginning with my grandparents, and continuing with my own mother whose heart failed when she was 80 and my father who died at 67 of cancer. He accepted his passing; my mother fought it the whole way.
I would say that I know the country of old men and old women. For years, I seemed to seek them out, as though I needed them for some obscure reasons. I befriended Solomon Sorgenstein, Sam Krieger and Benedict Sobler, and watched them die.
Before I rented my room in Gretel’s house I knew the word “dementia,” but I didn’t know what it meant to suffer from it. I am still learning to navigate the territory. Like Maud in Elizabeth Is Missing, Gretel clips and saves articles from the newspaper that arrives at her doorstep and that she reads, though I don’t know how much she absorbs. The papers pile up day-after-day. A week after they’ve arrived, I throw them away. Like Maud, Gretel digs in her own garden, picks flowers, makes bouquets and seems to derive pleasure from poking her fingers in the earth.
When she was a girl she took an aptitude test. The examiner told her, she tells me, that the results suggested that she would be good as a janitor. Forty or so years later, she remembers and is still hurt. She’s good at raking fallen leaves and adding them to the compost heap, but she doesn’t have the kind of clarity that Maud has when she says, “I haven’t lost me marbles, though everyone thinks I have.” Still, Gretel does say something similar: “My son-in-law thinks I’m a crazy old lady.” Indeed he does. Unlike Maud, Gretel has never said, “I haven’t lost me marbles.” Maybe she knows she has lost them. Maybe she doesn’t want to admit it to herself or anyone else.
I tell myself to have compassion. That’s challenging, especially when Gretel says things that sound and feel hostile, as when she said on one occasion, with bitterness, “When you’re in my state and condition, see how you like it!” Ouch! I was frustrated when she lost a pair of my pants, which she was going to repair, and when she removed a box of cereal from my side of the cupboard and wanted to toss it. As her daughter said, “What’s hers is hers, and what’s yours is also hers.”
I knew Gretel was messy before I moved into her three bedroom, three bathroom house. All over the place, books, papers and items of clothing were in small piles. What I didn’t know is that there was a mess in Gretel’s head. I should have known. She always was spacey.
Her daughter and son-in-law think that something traumatic happened to her when she was a child. That could be, though she has some sharp memories of a seemingly happy childhood during World War II, when U.S. soldiers were stationed near her home and Japanese families were removed from their houses and placed in detention centers. I wonder if they’re false memories. At times they seem like they might belong to most anyone of her age and generation.
Sixty-years ago, when Gretel was pregnant and expecting a child, she went to Sweden to give birth. She told me that she was ashamed, but she doesn’t say much more. Her daughter tells me that her mother took her to political demonstrations in the 1980s and abandoned her in the crowds. Now, Gretel waits on her daughter’s every step and every word. Her daughter does everything humanly possible for her mother, but it’s never enough.
Yes, something must have happened in Gretel’s childhood. She won’t eat fish, which was a big part of her Scandinavian family’s diet when she was a girl. She has forbidden me to cook any kind of seafood in the kitchen. The smell makes her nauseous, she says. But she just burned a skillet with bacon, filled the house with smoke, turned on the TV and sat down to watch as though nothing had happened. I clean up the mess.
About three-months after I moved into Gretel’s house she woke me at about 4 a.m. and told me there were thieves in the backyard. “Go out there and chase them away,” she said. I didn’t want to, but I went outside with a flashlight and poked around. There were no thieves, no humans of any kind and nothing was missing. I went back to bed.
I don’t just get up and leave. I feel a sense of responsibility. I moved in as a renter, but I have become a caregiver and a housekeeper who runs errands, washes dishes, reminds Gretel to close the refrigerator door and turn off the running water at the tap. Sometimes I watch the TV news with her. When insurgents stormed the U.S. capitol on January 6, 2021, she told me, ”There’s a revolution in Washington.”
Greta takes antidepressants, though I don’t know if they help. For a brief while, she did psychotherapy on the phone. She has told me several times that she wants to end her life, but doesn’t know how. I’ve tried to persuade her that her life is worth living.
I wish she was as capable as Maud Horsham and might be able to solve the mystery of her own identity, but I’m afraid that she’ll slide down further into dementia. It’s inevitable, her daughter says. A friend of mine whose mother suffered from dementia says it’s bound to happen.
When I asked Gretel what she would do if she saw a fire again on the adjoining property, she said, “I’d call the fire department.” She has not thought about consulting someone else. Why should she? She thinks she has all her marbles. I wonder how many times she can call in a false alarm before she’s taken away and placed in some sort of facility for men and women who have lost it.
My friend, Marie, told me about the time she visited an institution she describes as “like an insane asylum,” and where the inmates were lined up in wheelchairs, drugged and demanding attention. “One mother didn’t remember her own grown child when she was seated in front of her,” Marie told me. “The child couldn’t accept that behavior from the parent.”
“Radical acceptance” is what families need when a parent suffers from dementia. I learned that term when I was depressed and tried to deny it, which only made things worse. Accepting it, helped me heal. Now I have to accept the fact that after a year of the pandemic I feel isolated. Nobody, including my own brothers, wants me inside their houses, even with a mask on.
Some of my most cherished memories of life on Gretel’s farm are of harvesting pears, apples and berries, making jams and pies and eating them. But I have also found it depressing when I’ve watched Gretel sit in a cold, dark room with only the glow from the TV to illuminate her face. All too often, she doesn’t want heat or light. My time here has been bittersweet. I expect to go on living here for another six months or so and until I can find another place to live, which is not easy to do in the pandemic. I’m curious to find out how things will turn out. Meanwhile, every day around 11 p.m. I say “good night” to Gretel and mean it, and every day around 9 a.m. I say “good morning" and mean it, too.
(Jonah Raskin is the author of For The Hell of It: The Life and Times of Abbie Hoffman and American Scream: Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ and the Making of the Beat Generation.)
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
The remedy for bad speech is more speech, not censorship. Some say the Holocaust never happened. I know it happened, because my elders were fighters in that war and told me of the things they saw. I cannot change their minds. I know what I know, and I’ll put that on the arena, but have no right censor anyone.
I think many of the commenters here are a bit like me: right wing, supposing that means anything anymore, but not fascist. Aware of evident problems and allergic to pc bullshit, but not judging a person by his color or religion. Proud of their Western culture and heritage, fully aware that culture is under attack and disappearing, and clamoring for the right to be proud, just like everybody else. Cranky as hell.
But that’s all on the cultural and political fronts. The real important thing that the author has done is build a body of work about the horrific waste and missing soul of our society, about how resources are running out and we just can’t seem to wake up and realize where we’re going.
When you have free speech, you’ll have someone claiming aliens are running things, others saying different more or less interesting or useful things, and you have to make the call, decide what’s worth the effort. I’m sorry I can’t explain all this any better, but if I considered this primarily a nazi forum, I wouldn’t be here. A couple nazis, a couple marxists, yeah… but most posters have something of value to bring to the table, and are neither.
“PEOPLE TALK SOMETIMES of a bestial cruelty, but that’s a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel. The tiger only tears and gnaws, that’s all he can do. He would never think of nailing people by the ears, even if he were able to do it.”
(Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov)
CALIFORNIA EXTENDS EVICTION MORATORIUM THROUGH JUNE
An eviction moratorium extension and $2.6 billion in rental relief overwhelmingly passed both chambers of California’s legislature Thursday amid questions from legislators over the efficacy of the state’s rollout plan and the equity of the money’s distribution among small, rural areas.
NOW MY MAIN objective is improving myself as a human being in society. I want to set a good example for my kids. I want to set an example for myself.
I forgave myself for all the things I did. I appreciate the forgiveness that I gave to myself. In order to achieve any encounter with love, you have to learn to forgive yourself and to start applying love to yourself and to the whole mantle of your existence.
— Mike Tyson
ONE MAN’S MISSION TO RECOVER BODIES from the watery depths of Lake Tahoe
Keith Cormican is one of the nation’s top speciaists in a gruesome yet critical task: retrieving the dead bodies of people who have drowned in lakes…
J & J'S ONE-DOSE COVID VACCINE
The U.S. may soon have a third vaccine. Here's how it works
by Sarah Elizabeth Richards, National Geographic
As the Biden administration promises to accelerate the U.S. coronavirus vaccine rollout, it could soon have a new tool: A single-dose vaccine that can survive up to three months in an ordinary refrigerator.
Manufacturer Johnson & Johnson released data Friday showing that its single-dose version provided strong protection against COVID-19. Yet the news came with two caveats: The candidate’s efficacy rate—72 percent in the United States—is lower than the 95 percent rates boasted by the two-dose versions from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna that are currently approved for use in the U.S.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine also provided less immunity among trial participants in South Africa, where a set of mutations threatens to accelerate the deadliness of the global pandemic. In that study, the efficacy rate was just 57 percent. The manufacturers of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have reported similar concerns with their vaccines, and are studying different dosing and formulation strategies in the event new variants of the coronavirus outwit their vaccines.
The new vaccine candidate is expected to be reviewed for emergency use authorization by U.S. Food and Drug Administration as soon as next week. If approved, experts say the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine could streamline a national COVID-19 vaccination administration campaign that has to date been criticized as scattered and lethargic. Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna versions must be given in two doses several weeks apart.
“This could be a game-changer because it’s one dose,” says Bruce Y. Lee, professor of health policy and management at the City University of New York Graduate School of Public Health, who studies pharmaceutical supply chains. “It’s easier to administer. With two doses, you have to get people to come back for a second. It’s going to be easier to manufacture; you have to produce half as many doses.”
The absence of stringent temperature requirements for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine also means increased access across health systems and communities. Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine must be stored at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit and is good for five days in a refrigerator; Moderna’s version is shipped frozen and lasts up to 30 days in a refrigerator.
“Many clinics in lower income areas or rural neighborhoods might not have freezer space period, but they have refrigeration. It increases the range of places that can get the vaccines,” says Lee.
Proven vaccine technology
Another potential advantage of Johnson & Johnson’s candidate is that it’s made from a vaccine platform with a track record: the viral-vector approach, which the company used in its Ebola virus vaccine approved by the European Commission in July. By contrast, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are based on messenger RNA technology that was first authorized for use in humans in December.
Viral-vector technology uses an adenovirus, which causes the common cold. The strain of adenovirus used in the vaccine platform is engineered not to replicate, so that it doesn’t make the recipient sick. Rather, it serves as a vehicle to transport a gene from the SARS-CoV-2 virus that carries instructions to develop a part of the coronavirus—known as the spike protein—that allows it to invades cells. When introduced into the body, the altered adenovirus injects the gene into cell nuclei to produce the spike protein.
Yet the spike protein versions created by viral-vector vaccines are enough to fool the body into triggering an immune response to SARS-CoV-2 without causing an all-out infection. COVID-19 vaccines based on messenger RNA (mRNA), on the other hand, carry the instructions for generating spike proteins via RNA encoding for the spike protein coated with lipid nanoparticles.
“Conceptually it’s the same thing,” says Aliasger K. Salem, chair of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Iowa. “The adenovirus is just like messenger RNA, but it uses a different vector.”
The significance of the Johnson & Johnson viral-vector vaccine, Salem adds, is that the company already has the knowledge of best practices and manufacturing infrastructure in place to quickly scale up production, if given the green light by the FDA.
It’s clear that Johnson & Johnson’s would gain competitive advantage by designing a single-dose regimen, but unknown whether its vaccine might provide better or longer protection if given with a booster shot. The company is currently attempting to answer that question by recruiting for a separate study that will give participants two doses spaced two months apart.
Such an additional dose could be a useful strategy for pharmaceutical companies to address new and worrisome variants of the virus that arise over time. For example, Moderna has said although it expects its current vaccine version to work against recently discovered variants from the U.K. and South Africa, its researchers planned to test a booster dose—a third shot in addition to the two-dose series—that would include specific spike proteins against emerging strains. One Moderna booster shot targeting the South African variant is already being studied in the U.S.
Earlier this week, Pfizer-BioNTech announced new data showing that although its current vaccine formulation was slightly less effective against the South African variant, it still provided protection. Yet the companies were prepared to respond if it stopped providing immunity.
Viral-vector vaccines are also easily customizable, says Salem, whether as an emergency booster shot or a reconfigured single dose. “The industry has a long track record and experience with inserting new sequences into viral vectors so they can readily adapt to new variants,” he says.
The psychological difference
Whatever the FDA decides, several questions remain.
Will Johnson & Johnson’s “one-and-done” regimen convince more people to get a coronavirus vaccine? Or will the company’s successful track record with the viral-vector Ebola vaccine—in contrast to the new mRNA technology used by currently approved coronavirus vaccines—provide the necessary reassurance for people to sign up for the shot?
“I worry the word mRNA scares people. People are worried that it might mess with their genetics,” says Julie Swann, head of the department of industrial and systems engineering at North Carolina State University who studies health care systems. “We just don’t have the history with this particular kind of vaccine, even though we’ve been looking at this mRNA technology for a long time.”
Ultimately, convenience might matter more. “I don’t think most people dig into the details and actual mechanisms of vaccines,” says Austin Baldwin, an associate professor of psychology who studies vaccine decision-making at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Baldwin predicts the single-dose approach will result in increased vaccination rates. “The very fact that it’s a single dose means you’d expect compliance to be better. It reduces perceived barriers,” he says. “It’s easier to get one than two.”
Yet harder decisions still loom, as health officials have to weigh easier access with reduced protection, compared to the other two vaccines that are available. Despite reports of Johnson & Johnson’s lower efficacy rates, there were hopeful findings: The vaccine was 85 percent effective in preventing severe disease across the globe, and none of the vaccinated patients were admitted to the hospital. Plus, Johnson & Johnson has said it could produce 100 million doses by the end of June—providing a much-needed boost to the nation’s supply.
“One of my big questions is who should be given the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, if we know it’s less effective,” says Swann. “That’s a big issue. You wouldn’t want there to be inequities among different communities.”
If and when U.S. consumers are able to choose among available vaccine brands, they will also have to ask themselves which kind is best for them: one of the two-dose mRNA vaccines that give me more than 90 percent protection?
“Or should I get the one dose and I won’t have to come back?” Swann says.
“THE FACT IS that the average man's love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth.
He is not actually happy when free; he is uncomfortable, a bit alarmed, and intolerably lonely.”
— HL Mencken
“THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT is a highly flawed, distressingly compromised, woefully incomplete attempt to establish a basic right that already exists . . . in every other developed nation. It is also the most ambitious and significant piece of domestic legislation to pass in half a century.”
— Jonathan Cohn
“FOR A LONG TIME I had to fight against a feeling of aversion for my country; now I am beginning to accustom myself to all the horrors that make up the human condition… Fortunately, there is one salvation: morality, the world of the arts, poetry and human relations.
There, nobody bothers me, policeman or town councilor. I am alone. Outside the wind howls, outside all is mud and cold; I am here, I play Beethoven and shed tears of tenderness; or I read the Iliad, or I create my own men and women and live with them, covering sheets of paper...”
— Leo Tolstoy
MEMO OF THE AIR: Good Night Radio all night tonight!
Subject: Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio all night tonight!
Hi. Marco here. Deadline to email your writing for tonight's (Friday night's) MOTA show is about 7pm. After that, send it whenever it's ready, up to 6pm Friday next week, and I'll take care of it then. There's always another chance. There's no pressure.
Memo Of The Air: Good Night Radio is every Friday, 9pm to 5am on 107.7fm. KNYO-LP Fort Bragg as well as anywhere else via http://airtime.knyo.org:8040/128 (That's the regular link to hear what's on KNYO in real time, any time.)
And any time of any day or night you can go to https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com and hear last week's MOTA show. By Saturday night the recording of tonight's show will also be there, in the latest post, right on top.
Also, at https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com there's a selection of educational ointments to rub into your brain until showtime, not to mention between shows, such as:
Jazz refrigeration. https://laughingsquid.com/broken-air-conditioner-plays-jazz-drum-solo/
Allakazam! Now you see him, now you don't, because he is dead. http://www.weirduniverse.net/blog/comments/the_magic_land_of_allakazam
And La Baby Sister. Capitulo 14. (Volume is very low.) (By trickery, Giovanny gets a good job in which his family has all hopes. Meanwhile, Fabiana's and Daniel's efforts to hide the photographs are in vain and Marta may discover the truth.) https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7mt7xg
SUCK IT, WALL STREET
by Matt Taibbi
In a blowout comedy for the ages, finance pirates take it up the clacker
In the fall of 2008, America’s wealthiest companies were in a pickle. Short-selling hedge funds, smelling blood as the global economy cratered, loaded up with bets against finance stocks, pouring downward pressure on teetering, hyper-leveraged firms like Morgan Stanley and Citigroup. The free-market purists at the banks begged the government to stop the music, and when the S.E.C. complied with a ban on financial short sales, conventional wisdom let out a cheer.
"This will absolutely make a difference," economist Peter Cardillo told CNN. "Now, if there is any good news, shorts will have to cover.”
At the time, poor beleaguered banks were victims, while hedge funds betting them down as the economy circled the drain were seen as antisocial monsters. “They are like looters after a hurricane,” seethed Andrew Cuomo, then-Attorney General of New York State, who “promised to intensify investigations into short selling abuses.” Senator John McCain, in the home stretch of his eventual landslide loss to Barack Obama, added that S.E.C. chairman Christopher Cox had “betrayed the public’s trust” by allowing “speculators and hedge funds” to “turn our markets into a casino.”
Fast forward thirteen years. The day-trading followers of a two-million-subscriber Reddit forum called “wallstreetbets” somewhat randomly decide to keep short-sellers from laying waste to a brick-and-mortar retail video game company called GameStop, betting it up in defiance of the Street. Worth just $6 four months ago, the stock went from $18.36 on the afternoon of the Capitol riot, to $43.03 on the 21st two weeks later, to $147.98 this past Tuesday the 26th, to an incredible $347.51 at the close of the next day, January 27th.
The rally sent crushing losses at short-selling hedge funds like Melvin Capital, which was forced to close out its position at a cost of nearly $3 billion. Just like 2008, down-bettors got smashed, only this time, there were no quotes from economists celebrating the “good news” that shorts had to cover. Instead, polite society was united in its horror at the spectacle of amateur gamblers doing to hotshot finance professionals what those market pros routinely do to everyone else. If you’ve ever seen Animal House, you understand the sentiment:
The press conveyed panic and moral disgust. “I didn’t realize it was this cultlike,” said short-seller Andrew Left of Citron Research, without irony denouncing the campaign against firms like his as “just a get rich quick scheme.” Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin said the Redditor campaign had “no basis in reality,” while Dr. Michael Burry, the hedge funder whose bets against subprime mortgages were lionized in “The Big Short,” called the amateur squeeze “unnatural, insane, and dangerous.”
The episode prompted calls to regulate Reddit and, finally, halt action on the disputed stocks. As I write this, word has come out that platforms like Robinhood and TD Ameritrade are curbing trading in GameStop and several other companies, including Nokia and AMC Entertainment holdings.
Meaning: just like 2008, trading was shut down to save the hides of erstwhile high priests of “creative destruction.” Also just like 2008, there are calls for the government to investigate the people deemed responsible for unapproved market losses.
The acting head of the SEC said the agency was “monitoring” the situation, while the former head of its office of Internet enforcement, John Stark, said, “I can’t imagine there isn’t an open investigation and probably a formal order to find out who’s on these message boards.” Georgetown finance professor James Angel lamented, “it’s going to be hard for the SEC to find blatant manipulation,” but they “owe it to look.” The Washington Post elaborated:
To establish manipulation that runs afoul of securities laws, Angel said regulators would need to prove traders engaged in “an intentional act to push a price away from its fundamental value to seek a profit.” In market parlance, this is typically known as a pump-and-dump scheme…
Even Nancy Pelosi, when asked about “manipulation” and “what’s going on on Wall Street right now,” said “we’ll all be reviewing it,” as if it were the business of congress to worry about a bunch of day traders cashing in for once.
The only thing “dangerous” about a gang of Reddit investors blowing up hedge funds is that some of us reading about it might die of laughter. That bit about investigating this as a “pump and dump scheme” to push prices away from their “fundamental value” is particularly hilarious. What does the Washington Post think the entire stock market is, in the bailout age?
America’s banks just had maybe their best year ever, raking in $125 billion in underwriting fees at a time when the rest of the country is dealing with record unemployment, thanks entirely to massive Federal Reserve intervention that turned a crash into a boom. Who thinks the “fundamental value” of most stocks would be this high, absent the Fed’s Atlas-like support in the last year?
For context, Goldman, Sachs posted revenues of $44.56 billion in 2020, its best year since 2009, a.k.a. the last year Wall Street cashed in on a bailout. Back then, the shortcut back to giganto-bonuses was underwriting fees for financial companies raising money to purge themselves of TARP debt. This time it’s underwriting fees for bond issues and IPOs. The subtext of both bailouts was that anyone who owned or underwrote financial assets got richer, while everyone else got the proverbial high hat. It’s no accident that income inequality dramatically accelerated after the last bailouts, and that the only people to see net gains in wealth since 2008 have been the richest 20% of Americans, a pattern almost certain to continue.
The constant in the bailout years has been a battery of artificial stimulants sent through the financial sector, from the TARP to years of zero-interest-rate policies (ZIRP) to outright interventions like the multiple trillion-dollar rounds of Quantitative Easing. All that froth allowed finance companies to suck out hundreds of billions in fees, encouraged lunatic risk-taking in every direction and rampages of private equity takeovers, and kept a vast stable of functionally dead companies alive on cheap credit.
Those so-called “zombie companies” make up roughly 30% of all corporations in America now, and they racked up over a trillion dollars in new debt since the pandemic alone. While policymakers may have stabilized the economy with the bailouts, they may also “inadvertently be directing the flow of capital to unproductive firms,” as Bloomberg euphemistically put it back in November.
In other words, it was all well and good for investment banks and executives of phoney-baloney companies to gorge themselves on funhouse profits on a funhouse economy, but when amateurs decided to funnel just a bit of this clown show into their own pockets, finance pros wailed like the grave of Adam Smith had been danced upon. The worst was Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman, who issued a somber warning that those behind the recent market frenzy are “in for a very rude awakening,” adding, “I don’t know if it is going to happen tomorrow, next week or in a month, but it will happen.”
This is the same James Gorman whose company just saw its 2020 fourth-quarter profits go up 51% versus the year before, with total revenues up 16% to $48.2 billion, matching almost exactly the 16% rise in the stock market last year. If you’re going to rake in $33 million as Gorman did last year captaining a firm that just siphoned off billions in essentially risk-free profits underwriting a never-ending bailout, should you really be worrying about someone else getting a “rude awakening”? There are 19 million people collecting unemployment who might be reading those profit numbers. Does this man know how to spell “pitchfork”?
GameStop has prompted more pearl-clutching than any news story in recent memory. Expert after gave-faced expert has marched on TV to tell Reddit traders that markets are complicated, this isn’t a game, and they wouldn’t be doing this, if they really understood how things work.
“I’m not sure everybody fully understands what’s happening here,” was the melancholy comment on CNBC of Wall Street’s famed fluffer-in-chief, Andrew Ross Sorkin. The author of Too Big to Fail added in pedagogic tones that while this “stick it to the man moment” might feel good, betting up the value of GameStop above Delta Airlines just isn’t right, because “there are no fundamentals here”:
Fundamentals? How much does Sorkin think his exalted Delta Airlines would be worth now, if the Fed hadn’t stopped its death plunge last March? How much would any of the airlines be worth in the Covid age, with their fleets of mothballed jets? What a joke!
Furthermore, everybody “understands” what happened with GameStop. Unlike some other Wall Street stories, this one isn’t complicated. The entire tale, in a nutshell, goes like this. One group of gamblers announced, “Fuck you!” Another group announced back: “No, fuck YOU!”
That’s it. Or, as one market analyst put it to me this morning, “A bunch of guys made a bet, got killed, then doubled and tripled down and got killed even more.”
Regarding improprieties, leaving aside that the Redditors were doing exactly what billion-dollar hedge funds do every day — colluding to move a stock for fun and profit — the notion that this should be the subject of a federal investigation is preposterous.
Is it completely outside the realm of possibility that the GME fiasco isn’t just day traders giving the finger to Wall Street, that “major players” are behind the stock’s movement, in an illegal manipulation scheme? No. Probably it’s not that, but it could be, just as some of the usual suspects may have piled on the long side once the frenzy started. But if there’s anything to investigate here, the obvious place to start is with the hedge funds and their brokers.
While it isn’t a complicated story, some of the awesome humor of GameStop is in the mechanics.
Unlike betting on a stock to go up (i.e. betting “long”), where you can only lose as much as you invest, the losses in shorting can be infinite. This adds a potential extra layer of Schadenfreude to the plight of the happy hedge fund pirate who might have borrowed gazillions of GameStop shares at five or ten hoping to tank the firm, only to go in pucker mode as Internet hordes drive the cost of the trade to ten, twenty, fifty times their original investment.
Short-sellers bet by borrowing shares from so-called prime brokers (Goldman, Sachs and JP Morgan Chase are among the biggest), selling them, and waiting for the price to drop, at which point they buy them back on the open market at the lower price and return them. The commonly understood rub is that prime brokers don’t always really procure those original borrowed shares, and often give out more “locates” than they should, putting more shares in circulation than actually exist (as in this case). GameStop is exposing this systematic plundering of firms using phantom shares and locates, by groups of actors who now have the gall to complain that they’re the victims of a “get rich quick” scheme.
Short-sellers are not inherently antisocial. They can be beneficial to society, instrumental in rooting out corruption and waste in whole sectors like the subprime industry, or in single companies like Enron. Moreover, the wiping out of such funds isn’t necessarily to be cheered. Sorkin correctly notes that many hedge funds invest on behalf of entities like pension funds, though maybe they shouldn’t, given their high cost and relatively mediocre performance, as I’ve noted before.
However, that’s the point. The degree to which even the beneficial functions of short-sellers are cheered or not is dependent upon whose corruption they’re uncovering. Let the record show that when the S.E.C. imposed a ban on shorts of financial stocks in 2008, they routed short-sellers who were dead right about the insolubility of America’s banking sector. The state prevented their correct judgment about companies like Wachovia and Washington Mutual, whose stocks kept plunging even after the ban and went bust soon after.
The shorts were right about all the other banks, too. The Inspector General of the TARP, Neil Barofsky, eventually told the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that 12 of the 13 biggest banks were on the brink of failure when they got saved — by the short ban, by emergency overnight grants of commercial bank licenses to companies that weren’t commercial banks, by the bailouts, by the subsequent avalanche of underwriting fees, and most of all, by the lies about all of the above.
The home of James “rude awakening” Gorman, Morgan Stanley, got its bank holding company license (and the lifesaving Fed credit lines that came with it) late on a Sunday night in September, 2008, because the firm couldn’t have opened its doors without it the next Monday morning. They’d have been blown to bits, by “fundamentals.” Instead, they got rescued, given a forever pass to keep feeding at the neck of society while claiming, falsely, to be not-failures and not-welfare recipients, better somehow than the “dumb money” they think should be theirs alone to manage.
The rank selectivity of this makes any moral argument against the GameStop revolt moot. There’s no legitimate cause here, just an assertion of exclusive rights to plunder, which will doubtless be exercised now in the form of bans, investigations, and increased barriers to market entry. Probably also, in the political spirit of our times, there will some form of speech crackdown on platforms like Reddit, to protect us from the mob.
About that: there are many making hay of a description found on a Subreddit, to the effect that wallstreetbets is “like 4Chan found a Bloomberg terminal.” A columnist at the Guardian, settling into the rhetorical line sure to find acceptance among the wine-and-MSNBC crowd, admitted to finding the rampaging-id dynamic on 4chan funny as a young person, but strange now to “witness a brief and regretful adolescent occupation re-emerge as a prominent cultural force.” The author wanted to admit to laughing at this “intentionally senseless” behavior, but ultimately decried the “transgressive attitudes” of the Redditors.
This is where society will ultimately come down, of course, uniting to denounce $GME as financial Trumpism, even though it actually comes closer to being an updated and superior version of Occupy Wall Street. It’s likely not any evil manipulation scheme, but ordinary people acting — out of self-interest, but also out of sheer enthusiasm for one of the best reasons to do just about anything, because you can — on a few simple, powerful observations.
They’ve seen first that our markets are basically fake, set up to artificially accelerate the wealth divide, and not in their favor. Secondly they see that the stock market, like the ballot box, remains one of the only places where sheer numbers still matter more than capital or connections. And they’re piling on, and it’s delicious, not so much because they’re right, but because the people running for cover are so wrong, and still can’t admit it.
Buy the ticket, take the ride, nitwits. If you earned anything, it’s this.
THE MAN WHO ISN’T THERE
by James Kunstler
One might ask: why is it so easy to put over narratives on at least half the people in this country? Here’s the answer: because we are living in a time when nothing adds up and there are no consequences — but especially no consequences for the folks in charge of things that don’t add up.
For instance, the January 6 riot at the US Capitol building. The Deep State axis of interests — politicians, permanent bureaucrats, Beltway contractors, K-Street influencers, shady international NGOs, and most of the news media — needed something that would overrule objections to certifying the election. They got what they needed in just the right place for it to happen, the very house of Congress. The objection procedure was neatly sabotaged.
The riot launched Donald Trump back into civilian life under a cloud of odium, labeled an “insurrectionist.” It enabled the Democrats to paint their opponents as “domestic terrorists” and manufacture a narrative that America was under attack by “white supremacists.” Troops occupying the center of Washington since Joe Biden’s inauguration are there to reinforce the story that the government is “under siege.” The tech companies de-platform anyone who writes about or speaks of “election fraud.” Next, the new regime cooks up legislation to intensify surveillance of US citizens. Worked out perfectly for the Party of Orwell.
Have we gotten a satisfactory accounting of exactly who led the incursion inside the building? I don’t think so, though after three weeks you’d think the FBI could have ID’d many of the characters captured on thousands of videos posted online. Everybody knows the guy in the horned helmet now, one Jacob Chansley (a.k.a Jake Angeli), but he was a very conspicuous street agitator in Phoenix, AZ, well-known to the FBI before January 6, and there’s reason to believe he has been playing more than one side in this game. The DC federal attorney, Michael Sherwin, says they have a list of 400 suspects. Any hints about their actual affiliations? Of course not. By the way, the authorities still haven’t identified the Capitol Police officer who shot Ashli Babbitt dead. Is it a state secret, or what?
Any chance that Antifa or BLM were involved on the scene that day? How is it possible that they would forego the opportunity to mix in with the MAGA crowd and make some trouble happen on Capitol Hill? What could have been easier, or more obvious? All they had to do was put on a red hat. One we know for sure is John Sullivan, the founder of Insurgence USA, a BLM spinoff, but mainly because he also happened to be an attention-whore who went on CNN afterward where Anderson Cooper introduced him to the nation as “a left-wing activist.” Was he the only left-wing activist on duty at the Capitol that day? Somehow, I doubt it.
The New York Times, mouthpiece of Wokery, is working triple overtime to sell the narrative of white supremacists on the loose. Anyone to the right of Woke is now an enemy of the state. Last time I looked, it was Antifa and BLM tearing up the streets, setting federal courthouses and police stations on fire, looting stores, destroying businesses, and injuring policemen — in the case of Portland, OR, and Seattle, WA, all summer long. Democrats somehow omitted to label them as any kind of threat to the public interest. Vice-president Kamala Harris (then-senator), led a campaign to raise bail money for Antifas and BLMs arrested during last year’s riots. Woke District Attorneys dropped charges against hundreds of them. Governors and mayors sat on their hands. There were no consequences for any of that.
If anything, the political right-wing of the USA has shown miraculous self-restraint through four years of FBI / DOJ / CIA sedition, tech company tyranny, impeachment chicanery, and the rage-fueled calumnies of Pelosi and Company, all aggravated by questionable Covid-19 lockdowns, and climaxing in a fraud-inflected election that has not been subject to any adequate judicial audit.
How much of the current artificial hysteria these first weeks of the “Biden” regime is designed to divert attention from the question of who is actually running Joe Biden? My guess would be Barack Obama via Susan Rice, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and formerly Mr. Obama’s National Security Advisor. I would suppose that Ms. Rice is on the phone with Mr. Obama bright and early every morning, and for more than casual conversation. She is surely plugged into the rest of the Obama network, too, in effect a shadow government, which may explain the seeming flimsiness of the crew assembled around Joe Biden. Seems to work for now. But how many weeks will go by before the whole country realizes that Mr. Biden is not actually functioning as president?
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