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Mendocino County Today: Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Dry Days | Sky Drama | Rainfall Totals | 5 New Cases | March Days | Erik Lamberg | Tire Amnesty | Water Trucks | 1940s Branscomb | Ed Notes | Restaurant Week | Yesterday's Catch | Social Murder | Real Treasure | Social Disintegration | The Parliamentarian | Sussex Sensation | Kamala Bombs | Blue Moon | Great Reset | Topside Support | James Ridgeway | Iron Lungs | Plastic Reduction | Bisexual Boom | Weekly Comments | Suited Up | Farewell Ferlinghetti | Landing Strip | My Say | Spinach Patch | Life Experience

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DRY WEATHER, along with near-normal daytime and cool nighttime temperatures, will occur across northwest California through Wednesday. There is the potential for strong winds Thursday with rain moving in late Thursday or Friday. The potential for rain will continue through Monday. (NWS)

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Clouds (photo by John Wester)

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RAINFALL TOTALS: The heart of this year's rain season has passed. Following a couple paltry months, February drizzle was downright stingy. Unless we get some serious extended downpours this spring, it will be another very dry year for our area, which does not bode well for the more conflagration-prone months ahead. The monthly figures for the 2020-21 wet season thus far:

Boonville (12.8" total)
0.1" Oct
1.9" Nov
3.5" Dec
4.8" Jan
2.5" Feb

Yorkville (16.8" total)
0.0" Oct
2.2" Nov
5.4" Dec
5.9" Jan
3.3" Feb

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5 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County yesterday.

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IT WAS ONE OF THOSE MARCH DAYS when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.

—Charles Dickens

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On May 29, 2013 around 9:31 PM the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office received a call from a family member of Erik Lamberg. The family member stated Erik was experiencing difficulties with his vehicle when she last spoke to him on May 26, 2013 around 11:30 PM. At that time Erik had his vehicle, a silver 2004 Honda Odyssey, towed to Laytonville when it broke down in Leggett. He had the vehicle repaired and stayed two nights at a local hotel in Laytonville at which time he phoned his family and said he was “fine”. The family has not seen or heard from Erik since. A missing persons case was taken and a “be on the lookout” (BOLO) issued to all northern California law enforcement agencies.

Deputies later confirmed Erik’s vehicle was repaired by a local mechanic and he had stayed in the motel for two nights, but had checked out on May 28, 2013.

On June 1, 2013 the Sheriff’s Office received a report of an abandoned vehicle approximately 20 miles west of Willits on Sherwood Road. Deputies responded and located Erik’s vehicle. It appeared the vehicle had gotten stuck in a ditch in the road and was abandoned. Search efforts around the vehicle were conducted but Erik was not located. The vehicle was towed to clear the road.

The missing person is described as being 51 years old, 6’05” tall, weighing approximately 200 pounds, having “sandy” blond hair and blue eyes. It is unknown what clothing he had on when he went missing. The family related that Erik may be experiencing mental health issues but has shown no violent tendencies in the past.

Anyone with any information relating to Erik’s disappearance or whereabouts is urged to contact the Sheriff’s Office Tip Line at 707-234-2100.

  • Age at time of disappearance: 51 years-old
  • Height: 6 feet 5 inches
  • Weight: 200 pounds
  • Hair: Light Brown
  • Eye color: Blue

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KIRK VODOPALS of Navarro writes: 

Re: Pot’s Money Trail… Here come the water trucks all over the county buzzing around to supply the thirsty plants. The County can’t make money off the small farmers, so consolidation is the goal. That’s how the system works. It’s easier to regulate a few large entities than a lot of little ones. And nobody really cares about how many plants are grown anyways. The “small” grows keep going and the water trucks keep rolling. Technically, you’re not supposed to truck water between planning watersheds due to sudden oak death issues, but nobody pays attention to that. The County and the State regulators only care about the dollars flowing in. Nobody gets busted (unless you’re a real ding-dong). The game continues until the prices change.

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Branscomb, 1940s

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BETH SWEHLA deserves a Standing O from this community for her indefatigable work for the students of Anderson Valley High School. Without Beth during this year of enforced social and student isolation, we’d hardly be aware that we even still have a high school in the Anderson Valley. 

MOST PLACES the following would be considered news. Not in Mendo, with the exception of the Boonville and Laytonville weeklies:

Closed Session Item 9c: Report out of Closed Session Tuesday, February 23, 2021, by County Counsel Christian Curtis:

Curtis: “The board met in closed session to consider possible legal remedies to return County property in possession of retired supervisor John McCowen. Per usual custom and practice, the county requested the return of the items at the time that Mr. McCowen left office. Despite repeated requests however, the property, including a laptop computer tablet, cell phone, printer, and building keys, was never returned and Mr. McCowen has ceased communicating with the County. Pursuant to existing authority and practices, County risk management has already initiated a small claims proceeding. The total damages to the county including the cost of rekeying the building is estimated to be between $3,000 and $4,000. At this time the Board of Supervisors unanimously indicated its support for the pending small claims matter, but decided that investing additional resources in a superior court proceeding would be premature.”

SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS, also speaking in open session of last week’s board meeting: “John McCowen, I would appreciate it if you would return the keys, the laptop, the iPad, and the iPhone. I don't want to be in the position of having conflict. I appreciate that you served for 12 years with the county, even longer in public service. It's not fair to put the Board in this position that you created. We have to treat everyone, all employees, equally and we would ask any other employee to return public property upon their departure from the county.”

SPECULATION ON WHY MCCOWEN won’t return his County issued computer and cellphone:

1. He lost them.

2. He gave the stuff to someone else.

3. Some or all of it is broken.

4. There’s info on the laptop that he wants to hide from County officials. 

5. He was set up by CEO Angelo who was quick to rat him out for misdemeanor theft of public property because she doesn’t like him.

6. He assumed he could get away with it because only the ava would report it. (Which is what has happened.)

WE ASSUME that DA Eyster is standing by to file criminal theft charges against the former Supervisor if the Small Claims action does not produce results like Eyster did when former Supervisor Kendall Smith refused to reimburse the County for the travel and conference money she stole.

A READER WRITES: “I have it from a credible source that the reason why former 2nd District Supervisor John McCowen will not return his county-issued electronics -- cell phone, tablet, and laptop -- is because there are records of texts, emails, and records of calls that would implicate McCowen in a crime. McCowen may be able to erase digital evidence from the electronic devices themselves, but McCowen may not know how to erase documents and data from the cloud. In any case, wiping your devices in connection with a crime -- even a remote wipe -- is regarded as destroying evidence, which is a felony offense. 

YES, we've reached out to former Supervisor McCowen for his version of the pending small claims action against him for allegedly leaving office with items belonging to the County. He told us last week he’s “working on something.” 

WHILE COUNTY COUNSEL pursues McCowen without, we assume, farming out the pursuit to a San Francisco law firm, some of us are wondering if the Grand Jury, if not District Attorney Eyster, will take a close look at CEO Angelo's unilateral decision to award a million dollar public grant to the private mental health business of Mr. and Mrs. Schraeder, a large gift of public funds if one assumes, as we do, that a million public dollars to a private party for a “teen peer court” is illegitimate, certainly more illegitimate than that same million going to the Sheriff, who also applied for the money for badly needed law enforcement augmentation.


To The Editor,

Who will tell the Supervisors what to do?

So CEO Angelo, after milking Mendocino County for herself and friends is finally going to retire? She's known for fits of anger and being petty and vindictive which earned her the nickname Evil Queen all the way back to her days running HHSA. She's your best friend until she isn't, then watch out. She also likes to be in charge. After ten years she's drawn all power to herself. As Clerk of the Board she controls the Supervisors and their agenda, feeding them information she chooses to get the results she wants. She got them to buy the rundown nursing home on Whitmore Lane with no questions asked. Same for the motel on Orchard Street to be used for homeless housing. She is also asking them to buy the Seltzer Realty building in front of the Orchard Street motel. No public discussion ever of why we need these buildings or what the use will be until after the fact. Maybe not even then.

Interesting speculation about McCowen’s laptop, More likely it implicates Angelo, not McCowen. He could scrub his laptop but not the cloud so your self-described credible source may be lacking. But McCowen went from Angelo's confidant to zero. Can't wait for the real story to come out, but don't be surprised if it goes back to McCowen challenging CEO Angelo's authority. 

My profession puts me in contact with some very well-connected County people. One of them reminded me that McCowen challenged CEO Angelo for diversion of a half $1 million of County money without Board authorization. Angelo herself might be the target of a criminal investigation.

Name Withheld


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CATCH OF THE DAY, March 1, 2021

Beck, Green, Hodges

MELISSA BECK, Ukiah. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun, vehicle theft, resisting.

DOROTHY GREEN, Ukiah. Assault with deadly weapon with great bodily injury, failure to appear.

JODI HODGES, Ukiah. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun, domestic battery. (Frequent flyer.)

Maciel, Meloy, Negron

RAMON MACIEL, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)

MARCUS MELOY, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation.

JAMES NEGRON, Livermore/Ukiah. County parole violation, failure to appear, offenses while on bail.

Perry, Rosati, Urbina, Williamson

ALEYAH PERRY, Sacramento/Ukiah. Unspecified offense (CHP arrest, released after booking)

JONATHAN ROSATI, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs.

MAX URBINA, San Jose/Ukiah. Pot possession for sale, parole violation.

JUSTIN WILLIAMSON, Fort Bragg. Burglary, trespassing.

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The two million deaths that have resulted from the ruling elites mishandling of the global pandemic will be dwarfed by what is to follow. The global catastrophe that awaits us, already baked into the ecosystem from the failure to curb the use of fossil fuels and animal agriculture, presage new, deadlier pandemics, mass migrations of billions of desperate people, plummeting crop yields, mass starvation and systems collapse.

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There can be no restoration of America without the necessary values and norms to provide the foundation of a culture. That is essentially what has been lost and I don’t see how anything like that can be accomplished with family and church so completely obliterated. The new dark ages will have to provide some way to allow families in small groups to continue the nucleus of cultural life along the lines of principles of order. We are further along in social disintegration than any other nation-state in the world.

Read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road for an all too graphic description of what we could become.

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“You’ll have to take that up with the Parliamentarian.”

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“I WANT TO BE ALONE,” Greta Garbo famously said in the movie Grand Hotel, “I just want to be alone.” The Hollywood actress adopted the same mantra in her own life off screen, with a slight twist, explaining: “I want to be let alone.” And she got her wish, mainly because she behaved in a way that enabled almost complete privacy. Compare and contrast Garbo's behavior with that of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who've also regularly pleaded to be left alone since quitting the Royal Family 14 months ago. They were sick of the dreadfully intrusive British press, sick of the constraints of royal life, sick of being criticized, and desperate for a new life in America that would free them from their terrible lives. Above all, they wanted PRIVACY. But it turns out that being left alone is the very last thing Meghan and Harry wanted. Barely a week has gone by without some new announcement from the couple — from their lucrative Spotify podcast and Netflix documentary deals, to endless Zoom interviews and chats, a newspaper op-ed written by Meghan revealing she'd had a miscarriage, and then news of a new baby accompanied by intimate pictures of them lying under the tree of love. Harry decided to prove his lust for privacy by giving an interview about his private life on top of an open-top bus in Hollywood to his mate James Corden. Harry's bus confessional was just the hors d'oeuvres for the main eight-course meal this Sunday when the pair of them sit down with chat queen Oprah Winfrey for a mega prime time CBS interview that's apparently so juicy it's had to be extended from 90 minutes to two hours. 

— Piers Morgan

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BUT ONCE IN A WHILE the odd thing happens, Once in a while the dream comes true, And the whole pattern of life is altered, Once in a while the moon turns blue.

— W.A. Auden

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by James Kunstler

Chalk up a fatal blow to The Patriarchy. That avatar of toxic masculinity, Mr. Potato Head has been dumped into the same humid chamber of perdition where the ghosts of Nathan Bedford Forrest, Theodore Bilbo, and Phyllis Schlafly howl and squirm — liberating billions of potatoes world-wide from the mental prison of binary sexuality. The move by Hasbro (bro? really??) may yet disappoint the legions in Wokesterdom as a-bridge-not-far-enough while they await the debut of Transitioning Potato Head, complete with play hormone syringe and play scalpel, so that the under-six crowd can begin to map out their own gender reassignments without the meddling of Adult 1 and Adult 2, formerly known as Mommy and Daddy.

Was it mere coincidence that the action in Toyland happened the same week that one Rachel Levine was grilled in her Senate confirmation hearing for the post as Assistant Secretary for Health in the Department of Health and Human Services? The hearing tilted toward transphobia when Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) asked, a little too aggressively, if they were in favor of pubescent children opting for sexual reassignment in opposition to her parents. The nominee, who herself transitioned from “male” to “female” in 2011, answered that transgender medical issues are “complex and nuanced.” True (perhaps). And probably more than a Senator who transitioned from ophthalmologist to politician might appreciate.

Such are the great preoccupations of American leadership in these late days of empire. Are there any “historic firsts” left for Progressives to achieve in the march to a transhuman nirvana? An “undocumented” president? Animal representation in the House and Senate? A-I “entities” qualifying for public office — Governor Smartphone? Let’s face it, the pitiful old school humans in charge of things for so long are making a hash of our affairs. A cash register could probably do a better job as Chairman of the Federal Reserve than the always-waffley Jerome Powell. And a MacBook Pro might make a better president than Joe Biden in the brief daily operational hours before his managers a “call a lid.” We’d have to come up with some new personal pronouns for them, of course.

Pundits and observers-of-the-scene have warned us that all this artificially-generated turmoil over the sex-of-things is but one part of the prelude to a “Great Reset” in which people the world over are to be herded into corrals of ultra-regulated behavior. Of course, steers and cows are easier to push around than bulls, and the technology for transforming bulls into steers — or men in to eunuchs — is not that complex or nuanced. The question is: will enough American men submit to castration, either chemical, financial, political, or literal? Maybe not.

Cheerleaders for the Great Reset underestimate woefully the factor of disorder in the system they so crave to hegemonize. Disorder is exactly what the system is expressing, and in direct proportion to the wishes of authorities to exert tyrannical control over populations. Not only will the disorders get worse, but their effects will go increasingly non-linear, producing unintended consequences. Has anyone noticed that the psychopathic Woke curricula of Higher Ed have mirrored the collapsing business model of the colleges and universities? The more trouble they got themselves into with the loan racket, the crazier the faculty was allowed to act — as far as calling for the extermination of white people and the cancellation of Western Civ. Both the broken business model and intellectual rot will bring down many of these institutions, and quicker than you might believe. And then you will have no Higher Ed. People get what they deserve, not what they expect.

It’s been entertaining, for sure, but as we enter the 2021 springtime, with the banking system coming apart and markets wobbling, and more Americans evicted from both their living quarters and the middle-class, and conflicts between the state and federal governments, and new bouts of street-fighting, looting, and murder in the cities, it won’t be so amusing anymore. There will be a lot more to worry about than the gender of toys.

There isn’t a chance in hell that all Americans will get herded into a corral of cashless, digital currency that amounts to financial castration. Too many of us value the liberty of not having our every money transaction tracked by some Big Brother. As the dollar fails, Texas and Florida may be moved to issue their own currencies, and other states could follow their leads — may even follow them into an epic political realignment independent of the Beltway Swamp. And many citizens of this land have had enough of Google, Facebook, and the rest of the tech monopolies interfering in politics and pushing everyone around. The time has come for the heads of those outfits to start worrying about their own liberty.

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REPORTER EXTRAORDINAIRE: The Pioneering Pathways of James Ridgeway

by Ralph Nader

James Ridgeway formally majored in English in the late 1950s, but he really majored in “Reporting” as the editor of the Daily Princetonian. Imagine what it took to put out a daily college newspaper. He had it all in spades and proved it over the next sixty years, with quiet energy and a boundless range of subjects.

I have never met a more honest, meticulous, humble, and productive reporter so persistent in getting the hidden story out to the people, whatever the odds. For Jim, reporting what wasn’t going to get reported was his way of seeking justice for the downtrodden, the powerless, and everyone else unfairly afflicted.

He broke many stories with his articles in the New Republic, the then formidable Village Voice, the Guardian, the Nation, CounterPunch and Mother Jones, among other publications that featured his terse, vivid prose.

The books he wrote also marked him as a reporter who saw stories, trends, and stirrings in the society earlier than his peers. Without pretense and ego, he had the key traits of the great reporters – unquenchable curiosity and the rare ability to “read the scene,” and maintain a driving empathy. He was immune from being jaded and calmly saw through phonies. He asked short questions to more readily evoke candor or expose evasion.

Ridgeway knew the tradition he was extending in his coverage of corruption, profiteering, and betrayals of duty in government and business. The shoulders he stood on were of the great muckrakers of the early 20th century – Ida Tarbell, Jacob Riis, Upton Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens, and I.F. Stone.

I first met Ridgeway while scouring Washington D.C. in 1963-1964 to find someone who would take my findings on suppressed auto safety engineering and boldly report them. It was a tedious search. A visit to the Washington Post resulted in a twenty-minute presentation with a polite editor, who much later told me he thought I was just pitching for an inventor of some car safety device.

I finally walked into the house of the New Republic magazine and was ushered up the stairs to a young Ridgeway deep in thought at his typewriter. He looked at me, saying he just had a few minutes. Well, his curiosity resulted in a major article titled “Car Design and Public Safety.” The next year, he broke the fuller story titled “The Dick” about GM and its detectives tailing me, including to the U.S. Congress where I was soon to testify.

Ridgeway had the dual talent of digging into primary sources (Congressional, court transcripts, and internal memos) like I.F. Stone did and also hitting the ground where the affected people were ready to talk if anyone bothered to listen. And, like Lincoln Steffens, he knew that injustice and devastation undocumented would only fester.

That combination made his books prescient. They included The Politics of Ecology (1970), The Last Play: The Struggle to Monopolize the World’s Energy Resources (1973), and his early expose of corporate influence on the “University-industry” titled The Closed Corporation: American Universities in Crisis (1968). This book was an early alarm call for what has become deep and destructive corporatism inside higher education.

As corporatization of the mainstream press became more restrictive, Ridgeway went to the free culture of the Village Voice, where he worked for 20 years. When the Voice ownership changed, he started producing documentaries. His book and film, Blood in the Face, was on the far-right militias and other racist groups. The first edition, published in 1991, foreshadowed much of the turmoil we are seeing today. (A revised edition is due to release in June from Haymarket Books.)

During the past ten years, he and his colleagues resolved to focus on the cruelties of solitary confinement, giving voice to inmates so often arbitrarily imprisoned in a cage-size cell for 23 hours a day, trying to fight off going mad or suicide. Their stories were told in the book, Hell is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement (2016). He built an influential project with his longtime editor Jean Casella called Solitary Watch (see:, which received thousands of messages from prisoners and their desperate families. Jim would speak to these people on a regular basis, never exhausting either his empathy or his outrage. He maintained this level of engagement despite his painful ailments.

Add moral and physical courage to this dwindling species of truth-seekers no matter what. His was a generous spirit, sharing credit with others, and a patient mentor to his many interns and young journalists.

When Jim heard that we were organizing an intensive workshop to teach college students investigative reporting skills he offered to help. The 2008 event at Wesleyan University in Connecticut was also to memorialize/commemorate the luminous career of another courageous reporter, David Halberstam. Jim generously spent time with the students during and after the formal sessions. He also documented the entire week’s proceedings with his video team. Some of the country’s greatest journalists, including Sy Hersh, Jim Wooten, Roberta Baskin, Christopher Hedges, Amy Goodman, David Burnham, and others (see: journeyed to Middletown to train the next generation of reporters and to pay tribute to their late colleague. (I could see the respect they showed to Jim when they greeted him.) Jim sensed that they would be very candid and revealing about their own experiences and the restrictions imposed on reporters by government and business, which they and David and Jim experienced, but heroically resisted. As usual, his forecast was right on.

You can expand Jim’s legacy by supporting Solitary Watch ( either materially or with advocacy for expanding state reforms of this arbitrary cruel and unusual punishment in both corporate and public prisons.

His wife Pat and son David fervently wish that this work continues in their beloved Jim’s memory.

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To the Editor:

I was encouraged for a brief moment when I saw the February 18 headline, “Plastic Reduction Measures Urged”. But I was somewhat underwhelmed after reading that the State of California Ocean Protection Council is targeting the reduction of plastic foodware, cigarette filters, and plastic commercial fishing gear. Of course these polluting sources need to be reduced, but why do we never hear about eliminating plastic single use drinking water bottles, or about enforcing the plastic bag ban that the county passed some years ago? Some very powerful ad campaigns have succeeded in convincing so many Americans that drinking tap water is dangerous. If tap water worries you, there are lots of great filters that can be located right under the kitchen sink.

Please go to the Ukiah Transfer Station (the dump). What you will see woven in and out of the pile of refuse is hundreds and hundreds of black trash bags. For several decades, America disposed of its trash without the use of 35 gallon and 55 gallon trash bags. They are not necessary. We are choking the oceans and killing the sea life that mistakes miniscule particles of plastic for the food they seek to eat. CalTranş is required to cover any huge pile of soil that they move with acres and acres of black plastic to keep soils from entering the waterways and creating siltation problems. Aren’t we forgetting that while we are saving the rivers and streams from silt, we are filling the ocean with plastic? Maybe we’re smart enough to figure out a better way.

Every year – 9 billion tons of plastic are added to the oceans. Every year. 9 BILLION tons. What are we thinking?

Wendy S. Jackson


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The Gaying Of America

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[1] One common denominator that tied or unified Americans together was “dreaming” as implied by the term “The American Dream.” MLK dreamed and I like to think that Lincoln did on some level in his time. There is more I would like to say but it seems a mysterious topic – inexpressible in either black OR white.

[2] The problem is Oligarchy, the 0.01% have concentrated and monopolized wealth, power, and information. But somehow the Oligarchy has been able to create this huge diversion to convince everyone that the problem is White People and “Systemic Racism”, regardless of whether the individual white person in question has racist thoughts and behaviors. So, the unemployed white working class screwed over by Bill Clinton and NAFTA and the Obamas becomes the enemy, when in fact they are the class victims of the Oligarchy. It’s divide and conquer. And then most people can’t think because of all of the TV and high fructose corn syrup so they say bizarre things like: “The Oligarchy is mostly White, so the problem is all white people including those hillbillies over there…Get ‘em!”

[3] For a lot of reasons – mostly to do with geography (and the spread of civilizations between say Iran and Portugal), white Europeans developed the most technically advanced societies, starting with the Greeks and Romans, and moving on from there. This is why Christopher Columbus could successfully sail to the Caribbean, while Native Americans and indeed Africans did not sail to Spain. The same applied to the South Atlantic and the Pacific.

The Chinese and India also developed advanced societies a long time ago – however they were much more closed, and did not become great seafaring or colonial powers – although they could have.

The United States was founded by those white Europeans, and through good fortune they could exploit a huge and bountiful new continent, and many of them (and their descendants) grew rich or at least comfortable.

However part of that success was based on slavery, and it was a cruel and inhuman system. In the 158 years since the end of slavery there have been advances but they have not led to equal wealth, or lives, or opportunities for the descendants of those slaves (and other minorities who arrived here via different paths).

Whatever the reason, white Americans have almost all the wealth and all the powerful positions in society and the economy. While no-one needs to slash their wrists over this, there is a responsibility on the white sector to recognize that they have had significant advantages that were established well before they were born. Don’t take too much personal credit.

Always check your privilege in all interactions and transactions – you are not in the better position primarily because of your own endeavors – you inherited most of them. Don’t blame the victims, and don’t be racist. Be supportive and listen to black leaders and the black community. They do not want you dead, they just want a bigger slice of the pie. Class dismissed … have a nice day.

[4] My 81 year-old friend who recently got covid and ended up in the hospital for 2 days with pneumonia about 3 weeks ago, was walking around outside today feeling and acting chipper – absolutely normal for him. It was like he got a case of the normal flu with chest congestion that went into his lungs, but with antibiotics he recovered quickly, although he felt tired for a week or two. No big deal. Of course, he was fit and healthy before this, and as far as we know, didn’t have co-morbidities.

Does this show that old age is not a factor if one is healthy, exercises, is not obese and doesn’t have diabetes? It would be nice to know that covid is not an automatic death penalty for the elderly if they’ve lived well and are in a decent environment.

[5] Toy giant Hasbro has announced that Mr. Potato Head will become gender neutral ‘Potato Head’ in order to encourage kids to create “same sex families.” 

 The change will help children “create same-sex families or single-parent families” as Hasbro seeks to lean away from representing the “traditional family structure.” 

 “Culture has evolved,” said Kimberly Boyd, an SVP and GM at Hasbro. 

“Kids want to be able to represent their own experiences. 

“This means the toys don’t impose a fixed notion of gender identity or expression, freeing kids to do whatever feels most natural to them: A girl potato might want to wear pants and a boy potato might wear earrings. Hasbro will also sell boxed sets that don’t present a normative family structure. This approach is clever because it allows kids to project their own ideas about gender, sexuality, and family onto the toy, without necessarily offending parents that have more conservative notions about family.” 

[6] The problems in Texas are primarily caused by utility deregulation and a lack of insulation in the industrial, energy and domestic sectors. So why wouldn’t Texas’ coal and natural gas power plants — which produce by far the majority of the state’s electricity — take the simple measure of insulating the pipes that carry their process water? 

They don’t want to spend the money because in the deregulated Texas utility market, the cheapest power available is what gets pumped into the wires by the obviously misnamed “Electric Reliability Council of Texas.”

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Out For A Stroll

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by John Freeman

We didn’t drive in over the bridge. That was one surprise. I remember thinking we’d see the Transamerica Pyramid piercing the fog, or the bay sparkling in the distance. Instead, when I first visited San Francisco in the eighties, we arrived by tunnel. The BART train from Berkeley spat us out into the noisy, echoing heart of downtown. This was 1984, the city in near collapse, AIDS a full-blown crisis—the Reagan administration mocking its sufferers. As my family trudged up Kearny Street, we were stopped every few paces. Men whose clothes were in tatters asked us for money, food, anything. You’ll still encounter destitution in the city today; tech wealth merely rivers around it. To my child’s eye, it seemed apocalyptic then. How could a city pretend it wasn’t collapsing?

By midday we stumbled into a bookstore. Perched on the corner of Columbus and Broadway, City Lights emerged like an oasis. Stepping into the shop, I recall thinking it had a very different idea of what we all needed to drink. Books about revolution, the theft of the North American continent, and community action sprawled over several levels. Poetry had an entire floor. I may have been ten, but my parents were radicals; I could recognize the tribal markings of left-wing thought. Everywhere you looked, there were the city’s problems, written about in books. On placards. Broadside poems. Slogans sketched right onto the shop walls. The store was promising an escape by showing you how to escape back into social engagement. I’d never been anywhere like it.

That was thirty-seven years ago. Now, in the middle of the pandemic, the store is still open and it’s thriving. But yesterday it said goodbye to its eternally hip hundred-and-one-year-old cofounder, the poet, publisher, and community activist Lawrence Ferlinghetti. No one in American letters ever pushed back against power over such a long time as Ferlinghetti. He fought power as a poet, as a bookseller, and as a publisher. His poems in Coney Island of the Mind woke up a generation to the nightmare of the military industrial complex in America. In City Lights, the first all-paperback bookstore in the country, readers found fellow travelers for cheap prices. From City Lights Books, which has published everything from Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” to Rebecca Solnit’s first book to a recent title on drone strikes, the question of moral values in the age of empire has been explored more deeply than anywhere else in American publishing.

It’s an aging history to some degree, judging by Ferlinghetti’s hundredth birthday celebration nearly two years ago. For the longest time, City Lights was a young person’s holy site. On that Sunday afternoon in 2019, though, the store was crammed with people in their fifties, sixties, seventies, and older. Many men wore hats—bowlers, watch caps, fedoras, berets, even cowboy hats. Almost no one was under thirty. Following a rousing opening address from Elaine Katzenberg, the store’s director, the day began with a reading of a Ferlinghetti poem by eighty-six-year-old Michael McClure, one of the five poets who’d been on the bill for the famous Six Gallery reading in 1955, which scholars often pinpoint as the start of the Beat Movement. The other four were Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Philip Lamantia, and Philip Whalen. Ferlinghetti published all of them in the store’s Pocket Poet Series. Jack Hirschman, eighty-five-year-old former San Francisco poet laureate, followed by reading Ferlinghetti’s great poem, “The Sea,” in “which he gives death a kick in the ass at age 90.” Hirschman’s voice was the sound of the Ancient Mariner.

Over the next six hours, North Beach—the still-scuzzy neighborhood of strip clubs and Italian eateries that City Lights barnacled itself onto—hosted a day-long celebration. I wandered into Cafe Zoetrope down the street from the store and listened to one of America’s most exciting young poets, Sam Sax, reading Ferlinghetti’s poem “Dog,” which follows an animal across the city, “looking / like a living questionmark / into the great gramaphone / of puzzling existence / with its wondrous hollow horn.” A group of actors performed one of Ferlinghetti’s interventionist plays from the seventies in Jack Kerouac Alley. Former U.S. poet laureate and longtime Berkeley resident Robert Hass talked about the way that having Ferlinghetti in the Bay was like having a benevolent sun forever shining, making clear sight possible. Ishmael Reed showed up, and Paul Beatty, too, although he was just watching. As the day warmed, more young people appeared and the store became what it always is—a many-ventricled heart, pumping out light and ideas.

Ferlinghetti wasn’t around. The store’s staff sang him happy birthday shortly after dawn, serenading him in his North Beach apartment from the street. He came to the window, natty as ever, wearing a red scarf, and waved. For a person at the center of things, he was always a little off to the side, eschewing the light—he preferred instead to reflect it. You see this in the work. Ferlinghetti’s Greatest Poems, published several years ago by New Directions, covers an astonishing sixty years of production, and no matter where you dip into it, there’s a cascading movement across and through the day’s darkest events—Vietnam, the eco-cidal creep of climate change—back into lightness. Like Walt Whitman, Ferlinghetti writes a long, prosey poetic line, but his I is softer, stranger, and less verbose. His lineation steps across the pages with sudden, perfectly timed enjambments that allow for swerves toward tenderness, wonder, and mourning.

The magic of Ferlinghetti’s writing exists entirely in those transitions. They allow for his politics never to become the hinge upon which the door of a poem swings, but rather something larger and more eternally humane, even, hopeful. In “Two Scavengers in a Truck, Two Beautiful People in a Mercedes,” the poem smashes together two opposite social classes at a red light and, briefly, finds a chink of optimism in that sudden juxtaposition, “all four close together / as if anything at all were possible / between them / across the at small gulf / in the high seas / of this democracy.” In America, the long fallout of Modernism and confessional poetry has made someone like Ferlinghetti hard to place. Unlike T. S. Eliot, whose “Wasteland” he revered, Ferlinghetti was deeply allergic to the idea of art for art’s sake. And, unlike the confessionalists, such as Sylvia Plath and Robert Lowell, he was skeptical of the self and ego and mythologizing.

The key to how Ferlinghetti found a line between these poles lies in his time in France. It was to France he went on the GI Bill for a graduate degree at the Sorbonne, and where he read in great depth the surrealists, like André Breton and Antonin Artaud, both of whom he’d publish. He also read Jacques Prévert, whose “Paroles” was published in 1948, and which Ferlinghetti translated for the first time into English and published in the Pocket Poet Series. Prévert’s playful realism, his rhythmic repetition of lines, such as in “Sunday” (“Remember Barbara”), and his bent conception of the real are all also hallmarks of Ferlinghetti’s work.

Asked recently by Dwight Garner of the New York Times about the Beats, Ferlinghetti named their only committed surrealist, William S. Burroughs, as the best writer of that generation. Ferlinghetti’s affinity to Burroughs wasn’t just artistic—it was generational. The two of them were born a decade before Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Snyder. Born Lawrence Ferling in Yonkers, New York, in 1919, Ferlinghetti had been sent off to France as an infant. His father had died and his mother had been committed to what was then called an insane asylum. (He later restored his original family name.) Ferlinghetti didn’t learn English until he returned to America at age five with his aunt. She raised him in a suburb of New York City, where she worked on an estate as a governess. She later abandoned him, and he stayed with other family members until the stock market crash of 1929, when he was taken in by yet another family, who sent him to boarding school after he was caught stealing.

Though technically an orphan twice over, he somehow wound up with degrees from the University of North Carolina, Columbia University, and the Sorbonne, when the cultural capital of the world was shifting from France to the U.S. His patriotism had carried him away from America: in World War II, he captained a submarine on D-Day, but when he saw what the atomic bomb had done, he instantly became a pacifist. He stayed away so long he began, like so many expats, to identify with elsewhere. “When I arrived in San Francisco, I was still wearing my French beret,” Ferlinghetti once told me, laughing, in an interview. “The Beats hadn’t arrived yet. I was seven years older than Ginsberg and Kerouac, all of them except Burroughs. And I became associated with the Beats by later publishing them.”

Through the long lens of history, it seems likely Ferlinghetti’s legacy as a publisher will stand as much on the Beats as on the younger writers he published. In the last sixty years, a cavalcade of Black Marxists (Bob Kaufman), Latin American poets of resistance (Daisy Zamora, Ernesto Cardenal), stylish young short story writers and novelists (Rebecca Brown, Rikki Ducornet), and left-wing thinkers have emerged from the presses on Columbus Avenue. For many readers, the Pocket Poet Series was their first introduction to Frank O’Hara (Lunch Poems) and Denise Levertov (Here and Now), let alone the great Bosnian poet Semezdin Mehmedinović (Nine Alexandrias). To this day, you can find all these titles in the store.

Ferlinghetti wound up a bookseller by accident almost. A friend, Peter Martin, had been publishing a literary journal called City Lights, after the Charlie Chaplin film, and needed revenue to keep the magazine afloat. Martin suggested opening a bookstore, an idea Ferlinghetti loved because he had just returned from Paris where books were sold from stalls along the Seine as if they were loaves of bread. It turned out to be a savvy business decision. City Lights opened at the height of the paperback book revolution, in a city crawling with avid readers.

“We were filling a big need,” Ferlinghetti once told The New York Times Book Review:

City Lights became about the only place around where you could go in, sit down and read books without being pestered to buy something. That’s one of the things it was supposed to be. Also, I had this idea that a bookstore should be a center of intellectual activity, and I knew it was a natural for a publishing company, too.

While some of the Beats drank their talent away, Ferlinghetti worked diligently on his own poems. The jazzy, scabrous rhythms of Coney Island of the Mind were a call to arms for resistance in an era of unchecked American power:

I am waiting for my number to be called

and I am waiting/for the living end

I am waiting/for dad to come home

his pockets full of irradiated silver dollars

and I am waiting/for the atomic tests to end.

This message eventually reached more than a million readers, making Coney Island of the Mind one of the best-selling poetry volumes of the twentieth century. The book trailed him like a friendly ghost. It also bought him the space to continue experimenting. In the sixties alone he published his first novel (Her), an environmental manifesto, a broadside about Vietnam, a book of a dozen plays, and his own Whitmanesque third collection, Starting from San Francisco, which landed in advance of the hippy movement with a kind of warning that with liberation-lite comes responsibility. “As I approach the state of pure euphoria / I find I need a large size typewriter case / to carry my underwear in and scars on my conscience.”

One of Ferlinghetti’s great gifts was his ability to be a public and private poet at once. In the sixties and seventies, his poems appeared in the San Francisco Examiner, sometimes on the front page, as they did when Harvey Milk was assassinated. For decades you could find him in Caffe Trieste, writing, as Francis Ford Coppola later did. He traveled widely, as 2015’s Writing Across Landscape: Travel Journals made clear with its dispatches from Spain, Latin America, Haiti, Cuba—where he witnessed Castro’s revolution—and Tibet. But Ferlinghetti always came back to North Beach. His lovely poem from the seventies, “Recipe for Happiness in Khabarovsk,” is a kind of melding of the cosmopolitan world and the one you’ll find today still inside Caffe Trieste, no matter how many tourists turn up.

One grand boulevard with trees

with one grand cafe in the sun

with strong black coffee in very small cups

One not necessarily very beautiful

man or woman who loves you

One fine day

On the day of Ferlinghetti’s hundredth birthday last year, the March sky was a bright blue uncharacteristic of San Francisco. As the sun dipped below the horizon, and the aging beatniks drove back to Marin, I left some friends at a bar and walked up past City Lights, expecting to find it a wreck, or at least showing the telltale signs of dissipation. Instead, the rolling bookcases had been pushed back into place, the interior lights were illuminated, people were browsing. Here was the missing thirty-and-under crowd. They were moving about in the light Ferlinghetti had kept lit in the Bay so that others could see the wreck we’d made of the world—and also, hopefully, the way to repair it.

(John Freeman is the editor of Freeman’s and author of The Park, a collection of poems.)

* * *

Landing Approach, Coast

* * *

PERU N-WORD, Part 1: Introduction

by Donald G. McNeil Jr.

On February 5 this year, one week after an article about me appeared in the Daily Beast, The New York Times announced that I would be leaving.

At my departure, I was the paper’s lead reporter on the Covid-19 pandemic. I had been at the Times since starting as a copy boy in 1976.

Since the Daily Beast wrote to the Times on Jan. 28 saying it intended to publish a story, I have not spoken in detail to any reporter. On the advice of my lawyer, I waited until my departure date, March 1, 2021.

March 1 having arrived, I will now tell my side of the story, in four parts:

This Introduction

What Happened on January 28?

What Happened During the Investigation?

What Happened in Peru?

I’m publishing my thoughts here on Medium because I know journalists.

We make America what it is — without a free press, democracy dies. But we’re still jackals. We can befriend you for years, and then bite off your arm just as you’re offering us a treat. We can’t help it. It’s the nature of the job.

At the highest levels, like Watergate, it’s about digging for the truth, no matter what corrupt government official it hurts. At the basest level, when even the crummiest scandal erupts, you have to repeat the accusation, even if you know it’s untrue or half-true, in order to explain the truth — no matter how much you may personally like the source you’re hurting.

That’s the game. I’m somewhat relieved to be out of it. But after 50 years, if you count writing for my high school magazine, I’ll probably never be able to shake the habits.

Since January 28, I’ve been a jackal circled by jackals. Since not every journalist gets quotes right, on the rare occasions in my life that I’ve answered journalists’ questions, I’ve tried to do so in writing. That way, either they get it right or I can prove I was misquoted.

Even just five words I foolishly sent in writing to a reporter came back to bite me. On Jan. 28, the day the Daily Beast story broke, I had been ordered to not speak to the Beast or return any phone calls from the press. I did not. Emails poured in asking for comment. To one from the Washington Post, I wrote back only: “Don’t believe everything you read.” It was meant to flippantly convey “I can’t comment but don’t believe the Daily Beast.” Instead, he interpreted it as “Don’t believe the Times press release.” That inflamed the situation.

I chose this route so I can control at least one part of the narrative: my own. If you submit to filtering by another journalist, you’re answering only his or her questions. When he writes, he chooses the bits that he thinks are important. And tiny shades of nuance can cast a whole story in a different light. Am I principled? Old-school? Blunt? Cranky? Or “the end of the asshole era” at the Times, as Vanity Fair let an anonymous source describe me? Was I speaking to innocent schoolchildren? Or to privileged prep schoolers burnishing their resumés? Am I a long-time science reporter? A veteran science reporter? A star reporter? A legendary reporter? During February, without having published a single article, I won battlefield promotions from “long-time” to “legendary” from a dozen reporters who described me — for their own purposes — without ever speaking to me.

Am I really an asshole? I don’t think so. Not most of the time. I’m someone who holds doors for people, schmoozes with anyone, shovels my neighbors’ sidewalks, occasionally buys lunch in the cafeteria for strangers who forget their credit cards, counsels colleagues in trouble with their editors, talks up the Guild to newbies, walks through the newsroom on flu shot day reminding everyone. I pass on story ideas, share my sources and don’t hog bylines. I eat — or ate — lunch at a roving cafeteria table nicknamed the Alte Kakers Table, made up of reporters and editors from many departments. We welcome everyone to sit down with us. Some young reporters do, and they get an earful of jokes, foreign correspondent yarns and Times gossip ancient and modern. We’re a little noisy, but we’re friendly.

Now, there is an exception: if you’re an editor and you write an error into my copy, I can definitely be an asshole. I’m one of the biggest non-fans of the New York Times editing process. Because we’re an “editor’s paper” rather than a “writer’s paper,” every editor feels entitled and even obligated to make changes. I’m the previously anonymous author of the words once quoted in an internal Times report: “Every story is a fire hydrant, and the hydrant is passed from dog to dog to dog. The dogs don’t change the nature of the hydrant. But they rarely improve it.”

That was later misinterpreted as an attack on copy editors. It never was. I’m a former copy editor and I know how thankless and high-pressure that job is. What fries my shorts and makes me an asshole is gratuitous changes and unnecessary shifting of paragraphs, especially when the editor hasn’t read the story carefully.

To give an example: an editor once went through a story of mine and changed all the references to vaccines to “drugs.”

I went over and said, “Are you kidding me? Do you have any idea what you’re doing? Vaccines and drugs are different. A vaccine is something you take to prevent illness. A drug is something you take when you’re already ill.”

He tried to push back.

“Well, they’re both medicines, aren’t they? I thought it was repetitive.”

“It was repetitive, so you decided to make it wrong? It’s under my byline. You’re making me look like an idiot. This is like taking a baseball writer’s story and changing all the home runs to touchdowns. Don’t you think someone will notice?”

So, yeah, I can be an asshole. If you’re an editor, and you made changes in a story of mine, and I lashed out at you like that, I’m very sorry. It wasn’t because of your race or sex or youth or anything else. You may have just been a set of initials in the margins of our editing software. That’s one part of me that’s not very nice, and I know it. If I did that to you, I apologize. And if you’ll tell me about it, I’ll apologize personally.

I’ll tell my story in three further parts:

What Happened on Jan. 28 and Thereafter?

What Happened during the August 2019 Times Investigation?

What Happened in Peru?

For accuracy’s sake, I will write mostly from email exchanges or, when I’m recounting conversations, from emails I wrote soon after them. My memories of what happened in Peru are based largely on long emails I wrote to my union rep during the 2019 investigation.

I’ve had this whole narrative vetted by two lawyers.

A look backwards:

On Dec. 3, 2020, almost two months before the Daily Beast story, I did a Zoom Q&A for the whole newsroom with deputy managing editor Carolyn Ryan about covering the pandemic. The last question she asked was “What has this year been like for you?”

What I remember answering is:

“It’s been a pretty wild rollercoaster. I started off feeling like The Crazy Man, saying “This is it, it’s The Big One, it’s gonna be a pandemic.’ At first, no one believed me. Then, by April, when much of what I’d predicted came true and I was unexpectedly a “character” on The Daily, I was The Dark Prophet. In October, as I glimpsed the vaccines on the horizon, I became The Dark Prophet With an Optimistic Streak.”

“Recently,” I told Carolyn, “I’ve been feeling a little like a Confederate Statue. I think people are getting a little sick of me and are waiting for me to make a mistake so they can pull me down and trample me.”

Wow — was I right. I must be pretty good at this prophecy stuff.

Except I never saw this coming. I’d expected an attack from the far right, since I’d suffered one in May after I said on Christiane Amanpour’s show that the American response to the epidemic had failed because of poor leadership. I’d suggested that C.D.C. director Robert Redfield resign, called Mike Pence a sycophant and said President Trump lacked a third-grade understanding of science. I was told off and ordered to stay off TV. A formal letter of reprimand went into my file. The liberal/moderate coverage was favorable. The right’s was not.

If you watch the video, you’ll probably realize that I didn’t go on Amanpour planning to denounce anyone. She asked why the American response was so poor, and I answered frankly, without thinking of the consequences. It might have gone unnoticed except the show was tweeting out every utterance live, and I think Erik Wemple of the Washington Post called The Times for comment. In any case, something triggered the discipline process — again. The ban on TV appearances was slowly lifted about four months later. I tried to be more careful.

I never dreamed that one of the two Peru trips I took — which to me were just blips in my life, something I’d done largely as a favor to a friend who needed experts to make the trips sell — would sink my Times career.

I’ve been asked many times: Who was the Daily Beast’s source? And why was it leaked now, just when you’re up for a Pulitzer?

The answer is: I have no idea. The story includes a quote from an internal Times email, so I must assume it leaked from inside. But you never know.

And why? I don’t know.

It’s been quite baffling and painful for me to have people assume I’m a racist and believe that I said the ridiculous things I’m accused of saying — that “racism is over,” that “white supremacy doesn’t exist,” or “white privilege doesn’t exist,” or that I defended the use of blackface or said horrible things about black teenagers in general.

I’m surprised by how quick some colleagues who barely know me were prepared to accept those accusations and even add more on a Times alumni Facebook page. Someone to whom I don’t think I’ve spoken since 1994 said “calling him only a racist is being nice.” An editor I happily worked side by side with in 1989 and have had brief but cordial chats with maybe once every ten years when we bump into each other on the street said I seemed “dismissive of people of color and their views” back then. Someone I thought I’d been very nice to when she left the paper attacked me for using the expression “third world” in a story that was, as always, approved by several Times editors.

As I read the first two, I had no idea what they were talking about. I still don’t. But if I said something that gave offense back then, I apologize now. As another editor pointed out on the same thread, I can be pretty dismissive…period. But it’s never racially based. I also say a lot of things to get a laugh. Some might give offense without my even realizing it. And I say things that are misunderstood. Just last week, I bemoaned to a friend the fix that “God and Adolph” had gotten me into. Only after I re-read it did I realize how that might be misread and quickly sent a follow-up: “I meant Adolph Ochs.”

My girlfriend thinks I have a high-functioning Asperger aspect to my personality — I’m empathic about suffering but I also very much misread audiences. A young Haitian-American colleague and friend who sat behind me for three years in Science news called me after the Beast story. I told him what I’d actually said in Peru. He said, “Donald, you sound exactly like my father. He would also say ‘You can’t dress like a thug to a job interview and expect to get the job.’ But from you, it sounds racist.” I said “How is ‘thug’ racist? What about Thug Life Records?” He said “It’s almost the equivalent of the n-word. Don’t you know about Marshawn Lynch?’’ I said: “He plays for Seattle?” I could hear him sigh. “No, Donald, let me explain…”

So — was I five decades older than the students in Peru and out of touch with their sensibilities? Absolutely.

Did I have perspectives to offer that they didn’t get at prep school? I think so.

Am I a racist? I don’t think so — after working in 60 countries over 25 years, I think I’m pretty good at judging people as individuals. But “am I a racist?” is actually a harder question to answer about yourself than some self-righteous people think. One of my college professors was J. Herman Blake, who was Huey Newton’s biographer and, informally, the “minister of education of the Black Panther Party.” I remember him apologizing to a woman student he had inadvertently offended, saying “We all have our racist and sexist bags we crawl into sometimes.” I agree. I don’t know anybody who hasn’t, at some point, lowered their voice, looked around to see who was listening, and then said something unflattering about some “other” — whether based on race or religion or sexual orientation or whatever. That includes people I love — my mother once told me she was in love with a Jewish guy before she met my father, but my grandfather was an anti-Semite so she couldn’t marry him. My grandfather wasn’t a brute or an unintelligent man — he was a real estate developer, so presumably he at least sometimes did business with Jews. But he was a Yale graduate of his generation, when anti-Semitism was common. We all sometimes say stupid things — or things we thought were funny but weren’t.

What particularly baffled me was that anyone would look at my work and conclude that I would have chosen my beat if I were a racist, and could or would have survived on it that long.

Here are the awards I’ve won and some of the stories I won them for.

The 2020 John Chancellor Award for career achievement, including helping Africans get AIDS drugs and Indian cancer sufferers get pain relief. Just six months ago, the Times was happy to announce that.

A 2019 GLAAD award for writing about men on PrEP being denied insurance and a 2014 GLAAD nomination for covering gay black and Hispanic men with HIV.

A 2019 Association of Health Care Journalists award for reporting from Uganda and South Africa.

A 2012 AHCJ award for writing about HIV among adult film actors and drug injectors.

The 2007 RFK Human Rights Award for covering diseases close to eradication, including guinea worm in Nigeria and lymphatic filariasis in Haiti.

A 2002 National Association of Black Journalists Award for a series on AIDS in one South African town, from men in a bar to traditional healers to rape victims.

One of the sympathetic letters I got after the Beast article appeared was from a former USAID official who told me something I had not known: that my early reporting on mosquito nets helped lead to the creation of the President’s Malaria Initiative, which has saved millions of lives.

People can be accused of racism over virtually anything. I’ve been accused on Twitter of having a “white eye on Africa.” That’s certainly true; these are the eyes I was born with and I sometimes cover Africa. But I don’t think that disqualifies me. The Times doesn’t have a policy that you must be Asian-American to cover Asia or African-American to cover Africa. If it did, the paper would be poorer for it. The only exception I know is that, until the 1970’s, the Times never made a Jewish reporter Jerusalem bureau chief; it had a morbid fear of being accused of being “pro-Jewish.” Then Tom Friedman went and won back-to-back Pulitzers, and the fear vanished.

Some of today’s woke youth eager to “correct” us greybeards have no idea how normal it once was in America to slip into racism. I went to an all-male and nearly all-white Jesuit high school. It was, and still is, a good school. But it was the kind of place where it was much safer, for example, to be known as a racist than as a homosexual. One afternoon, in an unprovoked confrontation on a city bus with four public school students, I had my face slashed with a straight razor. I still have the scar. The next day, a classmate who had always ignored me — yes, a thug — offered to help me take revenge at random with baseball bats from his pickup truck. I walked away. If you don’t learn from your scars (I also have a tattoo from my second marriage) you don’t learn.

In the next three parts, I will try to give just what facts I know, not opinions. Everybody has those.

One last thought: what’s happened to me has been called a “witch hunt.” It isn’t. It’s a series of misunderstandings and blunders. I may be the only living Times reporter who has actually covered a witch hunt — in Zimbabwe in 1997. They inevitably end worse for the accused. I’m at least getting my say.


PS: To those who sneered at my apology: I genuinely do love the Times and its mission.

PPS: If you know me, you know I go by Donald. Never by Don.

(To be continued…)

* * *

* * *

TO BREAK EXPERIENCE in half, and call one side physical and the other spiritual is narrowing and confusing. It is life, and people do not live entirely dependent on food. Ultimately, we cannot really know what 'food' is. It would be better if people stopped thinking about food. Similarly, it would be well if people stopped troubling themselves about discovering the 'true meaning of life.' We can never know the answers to the great spiritual questions, but it's all right not to understand. We have been born, and we are living on the earth to face directly the reality of living. 

— Masanobu Fukuoka, 1975; from "The One Straw Revolution"


  1. Marshall Newman March 2, 2021

    The cartoon referencing Kamala Harris is gratuitous.

    • Michael Koepf March 2, 2021

      “Gratuitous” is often justified when hypocrisy is the point.

    • Marmon March 2, 2021

      very uncouth if you ask me.


      • Betsy Cawn March 3, 2021

        I for sure missed something. What cartoon referencing Harris, and what is the point of the deep sea diver? I couldn’t figure it out yesterday, and it still mystifies me.

        But I do want to make a comment about the plight of Mr. McNeil. The very fluid line between journalism and reporting is often the shelter for people who do not want to be caught lobbying but spend their lives doing it in the open by lecturing, publishing, teaching, and mentoring. Especially in the context of “science” writing, the author occupies a relational space with readers, listeners, and co-workers where self defense is nearly prohibited in pursuit of “honest, credible, genuine” answers to questions. This delicate equivocation with the self keeps the author alive to the context of emotional provocations of the day, while reconstructing the warp and weft of the conditions that brought one to the present — admitting of subjective “truths” that can only be counted objectively as favorable or not in terms of the outcome, there being no investigation (such as obtaining affidavits from the students). He said, and she said, is exactly what reporters try to avoid, while journalism is fraught with it . . . the bridge to drama, the spotlight diverting your attention from the back stage. And, yeah, really chickenshit what the NYT did, but not surprising.

        Still, hard not to wonder what a conversation between Mr. McNeil and, say, Cornell West might be like? I did find his essay educational, there’s that to say for it.

        • Bruce McEwen March 3, 2021

          What the gnu knew about pneumatic humor:
          The fat stupid fellow on deck is standing (perhaps unconsciously) on the deep-sea diver’s air hose.

          the other cartoon has Kamala (Kama is sanskrit for lust, and Kamala was the wealthy courtesan in Hermann Hesse’s novel of Hindu mythology, Siddhartha) Harris’s government is bombing the Syrians, just like the other administrations did before she, a “woman of color” took up the office of Vice President.

          • Marmon March 3, 2021

            Thanks for mansplaining that to Betsy, I was going to but I don’t think she would had appreciated it coming from me.


  2. Craig Stehr March 2, 2021

    “Bodhidharma’s ‘Direct pointing at the mind, seeing into one’s nature and attaining Buddhahood’ clearly states that all sentient beings are Buddhas. Once pure self-nature is recognized, one can harmonize with the environment yet remain undefiled.”
    – Hsu-yun (1840-1959)

  3. Michael Koepf March 2, 2021

    Donald G. McNeil Jr. “Don” sheds a few tears for himself…after the shots rang out.

    “The Great Purge, also known as the “Great Terror,” was a brutal political campaign led by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin to eliminate dissenting members of the Communist Party and anyone else he considered a threat. ” History Channel

    At least Stalin had a theory—absolute power for himself. Sounds like Don has been cancelled by “cancel culture,” who just do it because they can to give America a frontal lobotomy erasing who we are historically and culturally to be as empty as they are. Don is cancelled, but like the fools who stood before Stalin’s firing squads shouting “long live comrade Stalin” before the shots rang out, as a so-called award winning, New York Times journalist, Don fails to understand why he has been shot. Neo-progs unite, or if it’s possible, wake up! There’s a chance that you’ll be next.

  4. Marmon March 2, 2021

    RE: PARTY LIKE IT’S 1984

    Wait until James Kunstler finds out about the uncouth Dr. Seuss and Amazon Book’s latest move.

    “Last week, the virtual marketplace stopped selling Ryan Anderson’s 2018 book, “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement,” which offers a scholarly analysis of transgenderism that questions politically correct sacred cows. In particular, it shares the stories of adults who were encouraged to transition as children — and later greatly regretted those irreversible alterations.”

    6 Dr. Seuss books won’t be published anymore because they portray people in ‘hurtful and wrong’ ways.


  5. chuck dunbar March 2, 2021

    TRUMP AND CPAC–Choosing a Leader for the Future

    So the Republicans at their recent CPAC gathering tied themselves more tightly to Trump—

    And what does their leader look like now? A loser, a disgraced, resentful old fat guy, living in a mansion in his fancy resort in Florida, seemingly rich but in reality may be nearly bankrupt, a trophy wife, lots of high-end properties with many losing money, a once-owned casino in Atlantic City recently demolished (kind of an omen, really), has lots of opportunities in the near future for further disgrace—maybe jail time—via the criminal justice system. And, of course, still spewing the same old hateful message, on and on and on. What kind of idiocy does it take to still try to build a vital political party on such a one?

    • Marmon March 2, 2021


      I don’t know why the editor of this page puts up with all your hate filled speech against the greatest president of all times and those who support him. You should be cancelled for such dangerous rhetoric.

      The new Republican Party is the party of Love, not hate.


      • Harvey Reading March 2, 2021

        Yeah, they love to dominate everyone who will bow down to their sorry, authoritarian, racist asses.

      • chuck dunbar March 2, 2021

        For James

        Long in tooth–
        Kind of not couth.
        Short of thought–
        All out of truth.

        Here and there–
        Their minds wander.
        Thoughts askew–
        Hearts that plunder.

        But this poet
        Tends to blunder,
        No one will sway–
        It’s but a wonder.

        So cancel me now–
        I’ll say no more.
        I know, I know–
        I’m such a bore!

        Old Man Poet

    • George Hollister March 2, 2021

      It’s not Trump, it’s the working class voters he brought into the Republican Party. One of the many things Trump did to change America, is to make the Republican Party the party of the working class. So the Republican Party can not afford to alienate an important new constituency, and those new constituents voted for Trump.

      The new Republican coalition consists of the people who Reagan brought in, and now the people Trump brought in. I think most Republican higher ups would like to see Trump go away, because they can not win another national election with him on the ballot, but the working class can not be ignored. Mitch McConnell knows this. Romney doesn’t, and he is toast.

      • Marmon March 2, 2021

        Romney is upset because some uncouth guy became president after voters rejected him. Romney had the perfect hair and was always politically correct. He was the perfect designer politician.


    • Betsy Cawn March 3, 2021


      And, a misogynistic pig of a “disgraced, resentful old fat guy,” whose idolators keep screwing the weak, vulnerable, unprotected, and victimized mass of society — while the people who adore this malformed person, and his self-proclaimed reality, are actual representatives of a powerful political organization that is the party “of Love, not hate”? I’m guessing Marmon smokes locally homegrown perverted pot strains coming out of the crevices in the canyons of the Clearlake “highlands” — irrigated by some of the toxic leachate emanating from the Lake County landfill.

      Mr. Marmon, I’m very disappointed to see you espousing a censorship policy — under which you would surely have been “cancelled” years ago, in my personal and professional opinion. The Anderson Valley Advertiser is the last bastion of open dispute among the otherwise mute — those of us who live in the literary, “intellectual,” or “experiential” margins of Tommy Wayne Kramer’s nostalgic downtown. Bravo, Mssrs. Dunbar, Marmon, Anderson and Scaramella. Thanks to ALL the readers, subscribers, contributors, and community networkers who make this ride a daily adventure.

  6. chuck dunbar March 2, 2021

    James Ridgeway, Reporter

    “He was immune from being jaded and calmly saw through phonies. He asked short questions to more readily evoke candor or expose evasion.”

    Fine tribute by Ralph Nader for reporter James Ridgeway. Thank you, AVA for finding and printing it. There are so many unsung reporting heroes out there still, doing their fine, hard work day by day. The truth shall set us free.

  7. Marmon March 2, 2021

    “Be who you are and say what you feel, because in the end those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.”

    -Dr. Seuss


    • Marmon March 2, 2021


      Dr. Seuss’s birthday is celebrated on March 2 and it celebrates both the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel and the National Education Association to endorse the importance of reading. A lesser-known fact about Dr. Seuss is that he created the word nerd. The first documented use of the word was in the 1950 book he wrote titled “If I Ran the Zoo” about a boy named Gerald McGrew who visits a zoo and ponders what it would be like if he ran it. So In a way, Dr. Seuss is partly responsible for nerd culture

      I wonder how many of his books were sold today? EBAY MUST BE GOING NUTS!


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