Pattern Change | 3 New Cases | Frost Fans | Turnout Fire | Plant Sale | Emerald City | Hotel Willits | Supes Notes | Train Toss | Ed Notes | Dog Hell | Precautionary Principle | Yesterday's Catch | Overheard | Surviving Hemingway | Pamplona | Greedy Humans | Eureka Productions | Neurotic Liberals | Stupid Answer | Weekly Comments | Death Hotel | Afghan Vet | Home Riot | Oath Keepers | Titanic 2020 | Slow Memory | Fixing Stupid | King George | Post-Capitalism Conference | Killing Whites | Mendo Watertowers | Found Object
STRATUS AND FOG will continue to impact the coast today, while inland thunderstorm development will be possible during the afternoon across portions of Trinity, Lake, and eastern Mendocino Counties. Drier and warmer weather is then expected Wednesday through Friday across the interior, followed by widespread rainfall Saturday and Sunday. (NWS)
3 NEW COVID CASES (since last Friday) reported in Mendocino County this morning.
JUST IN: 14th morning, Tuesday, of frost fans roaring in the Anderson Valley.
HALF-DOZEN WILDFIRES IGNITE in Mendocino County, where Turnout fire grows to 200 acres
by Ethan Varian
Firefighters on Monday continued battling a 200-acre wildfire that ignited Sunday outside of Boonville in Mendocino County — the largest of six small wildland blazes in the county over this past scorching weekend, and a worrisome sign that fire season looks to be arriving early on the parched North Coast.
The Turnout fire, which erupted at 5:51 p.m. Sunday, was 20% contained by early Monday evening. It was not threatening homes or structures, said Cal Fire spokeswoman Tricia Austin.
A total of 72 fire personnel, five engines, four hand crews, a dozer, a water tanker and a helicopter were fighting the fire, which is burning in steep, rugged terrain near Highway 253 and Boonville Road.
Austin said the area was hot and dry Monday afternoon, and firefighters worked to establish a perimeter around the fire before conditions worsened later in the day.
“They’re taking this morning opportunity to strengthen the containment with the anticipated winds that always show up in the afternoon,” she said.
All of the other five wildfires in the county were quickly contained to no more than a few acres, according to Cal Fire.
So far this year, there have been 1,200 fires across the state burning just under 1,900 acres, according to Cal Fire Lake-Sonoma-Napa Division Chief Ben Nicholls. That’s double the amount of blazes and triple the acreage for a normal year.
The April fires — igniting more than a month before the traditional start of fire season — are being driven by high seasonal temperatures, gusty wind conditions and an abundance of dried-out vegetation after a lack of rainfall this past winter and spring, Nicholls said.
Since Oct. 1, the most of the North Bay has received only around 40% of average by this time of the year.
Nicholls said incoming rain forecast for this weekend will be a key factor in determining the start of this year’s fire season in the North Bay, which Cal Fire typically declares in late May or early June.
“If those rains don’t come we have a good chance of an earlier than average declaration,” he said.
That decision would trigger the agency’s Sonoma-Lake-Napa unit to nearly double its seasonal firefighting force from 291 uniformed personnel to a peak of 534 firefighters and other crew members, Nicholls said.
Already, the agency is training some additional personnel, including firefighters to staff an additional fourth engine in Sonoma County.
In Lake County on Sunday, firefighters quickly contained a double house fire on Cerrito Drive in Clearlake Oaks that turned into a small wildland blaze due to the warm weather and low humidity, said Doyle Head, battalion chief with the Northshore Fire Protection District.
Head said a few other small wildfires started in the region over the weekend, the result escaped controlled burns.
“It’s a precursor to what’s coming,” he said.
(Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
MIRIAM MARTINEZ WRITES:
I miss having the Wildflower Show about this time of year. If you're like me, you will be glad to hear you can still buy beautiful plants from the ladies of the Garden Section of the Anderson Valley Unity Club. Propagation and nurturing of these plants has been an ongoing enterprise. Reap the fruits of their labors on May 1 & 8 in the Disco Ranch parking lot. There will be Native plants, pollinator-friendly plants, vegies and decorative plants available, from 11 to 1 both May 1st and 8th. All proceeds go toward Scholarships for graduating high school seniors. Support the students and beautify your home at the same time. Our next Unity Club zoom meeting will be held on Thursday May 6th at 1:30. More about that next week. Details for the link will be sent to you by Arline B. just before the meeting. Questions? Ask Arline, she'll be glad to help. Stay safe and healthy.
EMERALD CITY MUSEUM OPENS IN WILLITS
by Jonah Raskin
I should have known that Oaky Joe Munson would stop on the way to the new Emerald City Museum in Willits. I’ve traveled with him enough times in Mendo to remember that he has friends everywhere along the 101 and that his friends remember him. It’s not easy to forget Oaky Joe. He’s big and he has a booming voice, though his hearing is also impaired and he can’t hear himself. Our first stop was outside Ukiah. Bruce Baker, an old buddy of Oaky Joe’s, was working on a 1954 VW which he had installed with a Pinto motor. Joe delivered some rocks for Bruce’s wife. When I asked Bruce what she would do with them he said, “That’s for her to decide.” He’s a wise man. Our next stop was for gas at the reservation. It’s somewhat less expensive there.
I’ve noticed that people will drive five miles out of the way to buy gas that’s five-cents less a gallon than along the freeway. That’s Joe. At the gas station he ran into someone he knew from long ago, a Mexican or an Indian from the look of him: tall, muscular, brown skin, black hair. Joe wanted to talk. He wanted to tell the guy that I wrote for the AVA. I just wanted to go on the road, and maybe get something to eat before the museum opened at 1 p.m. We couldn’t find anyplace that suited us and I was thinking that Willits was nowheresville, but then on a side street I read a quotation from the English novelist, Virginia Woolf that said, “When I cannot see words curling like rings of smoke around me, I am in darkness.”
I know the feeling. Reading Woolf’s words I felt better about Willits, which I knew somewhat when I was growing on Pine Mountain along with 75 or so other people. That was in the 1980s. I know some Mendo history from my own experience. Plus I wandered around the county when I was doing research for my book, Marijuanaland in 1990. Joe and I had heard that the one and only Tony Serra would be at the opening of the museum, and there he was at the head of the line, wearing an American flag shirt and waiting to get in. Tony was the star of the show.
I’m glad that the Emerald City Museum exists and that it has some history and lore, but I wish it had more about farming and outlaws and the real Mendo, not just covers of High Times magazine. I did enjoy talking to Richard Jergenson and his wife Annie Waters who made the museum possible. I tip my hat to them. I also met Richard’s brother who designed and manufactured the famous Protopipe, still probably the best pipe on the market and a real work of art. I met Amy Fisher from the Traveling Hemp Museum and saw some hemp products, including rope and wood for floors. Then there was Swami whom I had wanted to meet for years. I was happy I had the chance to talk to him. He came from a long way for the opening and he showed me some of his products which he said we sold in dispensaries around California.
Tony stood in front of the microphone, but he didn’t really need it. After decades of addressing juries and judges, he knows how to project his voice and fill a room with his words. He read Dylan Thomas’s poem, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” and that has the lines ”Do not go gentle into that good night, / Old age should burn and rave at close of day; / Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Tony seemed to be speaking to and for himself. He was also speaking to the older members of the audience and encouraging them not to give up the fight and not to empathize too much with the opposition. “We still have battles to win,” he said. “Do not surrender. Be Activistic.” I don’t know if that’s a real word. It doesn’t matter.
Near the end of the event, for the first time I met Beth Bosk who has her own unique view of Mendo and who spoke about the “reinhabitation” of the county by people from Berkeley in the late 1960s. Listening to Beth I might have been persuaded that the people who reinhabited the land were all intensely political and that many of them were lesbians. She remembered that the resettlement was “amicable” and that the newcomers got along with the old timers and the old timers got along with the newcomers. Some did and some didn’t. Best of luck to you, Beth. Maybe fairy tales are your thing.
By now Joe and I were hungry. We found a busy Mexican restaurant, ordered burritos, got in his car, drove a bit, parked in the shade and ate. Joe took out his pipe, filled the bowl and smoked. I probably got a contact high. Then we went back on the 101 and didn’t stop until we arrived in Santa Rosa where I had parked my car.
If you’re going through Willits I suggest you stop at the Emerald City Museum on South Main. It’s in the old Rexall Building. Inside there’s a big sign that says “Prescriptions.”
THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS kicked around the proposed Phase 3 “expanded” cannabis cultivation ordinance for 11 hours on Monday and wound up continuing the discussion to April 27. The issue has proven unusually contentious and has drawn hundreds of public comments.
AFTER GETTING DEEP INTO THE WEED DETAILS YET AGAIN, the Supervisors gave preliminary direction on several items including the most controversial issues of new permits in rangeland and allowing cultivation on up to 10% of a parcel over 10 acres in size. Supervisor Glenn McGourty submitted a last minute memo to the Board (posted here yesterday) which became the basis of discussion.
MCGOURTY, who recently retired from his sinecure as County UC Extension Farm Advisor, spent his career hob-knobbing with wine and grape people so it is not surprising that his recommendations leaned heavily in favor of existing non-cannabis farmers and ranchers.
McGOURTY’S PROPOSAL was to allow new cannabis cultivation permits in rangeland only if the land had already been cleared and had a history of non-cannabis crop production prior to 2015 with an irrigation system in place. McGourty’s colleagues went along with this approach except they removed the non-cannabis qualifier.
THE CURRENT FAILED ORDINANCE only allowed applications from people who could show “proof of prior cultivation” prior to January 1, 2016 (i.e., Phase 1). Which meant only people who could prove they were serial outlaws could apply. Was it any surprise that underground pot growers who had been risking prison to grow illegally would dummy up proof of prior cultivation?
AT LEAST IT WAS LEGAL to grow grapes in 2015. But anyone proving they grew cannabis in 2015 would still be proving they were committing a felony back at that time. Not that anyone has gone to prison for pot cultivation from Mendocino County for the last 15 or 20 years. Prop 64 also reduced all pot felonies to misdemeanors with a couple of exceptions like furnishing to minors.
MCGOURTY’S ORIGINAL PROPOSAL, to allow permits in rangeland only to those who could prove prior non-cannabis crop production was squarely intended to benefit his wine and grape buddies or cattle ranchers with irrigated pasture. And now it will also benefit pot growers who were prescient enough to cultivate in rangeland back in 2015.
WHEN ONE SUPERVISOR tried to credit McGourty for his masterstroke he deflected the praise saying it wasn’t just his idea — he had been talking with a bunch of farmers in Potter Valley. In 2017 the Board decreed only prior felons could apply for pot permits. In 2021 McGourty attempted to only allow wealthy ranchers and grape growers to apply. But wealthy pot growers will also qualify.
WITH MCGOURTY’S RESTRICTIONS in place, the Board decided they were ok allowing up to 10% cultivation in rangeland. They also supported up to 10% in land zoned Ag. The mind-numbing sideshow is scheduled to resume April 27.
FIRE! Monday morning. Approximately 100 acres and 15% contained on the Ukiah side of the Boonville Road. The fire was first reported Sunday (4/18) at 5:51 pm and, as of 11:30am Monday, had grown to 185 acres. Resources assigned: 5 engines, 2 hand crews, 1 Dozer, 1 Chief Officer, 1 Safety Officer and 1 Helicopter. AV Fire Chief Avila says the blaze was out of AV’s area of responsibility, and was a control burn “that jumped the line.” Another fire is burning near the headwaters of Feliz Creek, west of Hopland.
STILL NO ID on that fatal accident off Highway 128 near Yorkville on Friday, April 2nd, 2021 at about 10:30pm. An as yet unidentified 36 year old male from San Rafael was driving his 2014 Polaris Ranger on a gravel road on the property of 20770 Highway 128 about 4 miles northeast of Yorkville. For unknown reasons, the driver made an unsafe turn causing the Ranger to overturn. As a result of the overturn, the driver was ejected from the driver’s seat and came to rest on the gravel roadway and the Ranger came to rest on top of the driver. At about 7am on April 3 the driver was somehow able to make a phone call for help and family members arrived to remove the Ranger from on top of the driver. Emergency medical personnel arrived and the driver was transported to the Ukiah hospital. Despite life-saving efforts from medical personnel, the driver succumbed to his injuries sustained in the accident. It is unknown whether alcohol or drug use was a factor in the accident which is under investigation by the CHP.
TWO WEEKS LATER, on Wednesday afternoon, April 14th, there was another terrible accident on Highway 128 near Clark Road, Navarro. That one involved two vehicles, one of them driven by Christy Satoru, 54, of the Holmes Ranch, the other by David Ellis of San Francisco. Two of Ellis’s passengers, one a woman out of Berkeley, another a woman from St. Paul, Minnesota, were badly injured and airlifted to Ukiah and Santa Rosa. The CHP has not yet concluded its investigation.
CHRIS ISBELL was felled by a stroke in March, paralyzing him over much of his body. The well-known Navarro resident is believed to be presently confined to a rehab facility deep in the East Bay. We’re trying to find Chris’s address, although we understand the poor guy is pretty much comatose.
ONE DAY A FEW YEARS AGO I was standing in Boont Berry Farm chatting with Karen Espeleta, who’d just introduced me to her teenage daughter, a very pretty girl even beneath what seemed like several pounds of nose rings and, as I recall, a purple Mohawk. The fashionably-accoutered lass had about as much interest in me as in any other tiresome adult acquaintance of her mother’s. Until Karen mentioned that I was a good friend of Lawrence Livermore, who was once a regular contributor to the AVA. The kid , incredulous, stared at me. “You, you know Lawrence Livermore?” The pure improbability of the relationship seemed to stun her. That I not only knew Laytonville's lead citizen, we were good friends, becoming allies in futile counter attacks against the forces of destruction, LL via his seminal zine ‘The Lookout,’ me with the ava. That was my first awareness that LL had become a truly famous person, known to avant garde teens everywhere. I picked up a Sunday Chron and there he was denying that he’d just sold his record company for thirty million dollars! Out of the parched hills of Laytonville to big time show biz! Livermore, for those of you deliberately out of the know (like me), brought Green Day and other famous bands to mass attention and, prior to his subsequent eminence, often wrote for the Boonville weekly.
WHO DUNNIT? Some time between 11:30pm Monday night the 21st of July, 1997, when Lydia Espinoza locked all the doors to the Boonville Hotel, and 7:45am the next morning when the men working on a Hotel remodeling project arrived, someone or someones lifted a painting on display in the Hotel’s dining room. The purloined pastel is called “The Journey Home.” It’s fairly large at 20” x 27” — large enough to have prevented someone from simply walking out the door with it while other people were around. There were five rooms of guests on the premises, presumably asleep upstairs; none of them left suspiciously early and none were observed carting bulky packages out to their cars when they left. Val Gowan, the Hotel’s manager, was the first to notice that the painting was missing when she arrived at work Tuesday morning, just after the construction crew had begun work. She also noticed that the kitchen door had been left unlocked, which was an oversight quite unlike the meticulous Mrs. Espinoza who locked up at night. “When I walked back through the dining room toward the kitchen from my office I saw that the painting was gone,” Mrs. Gowan recalls. “I spent a lot of time Tuesday checking with staff to see if someone had bought it or had taken it home to try it out. Nobody knew anything. The painting had been stolen. Also, Lydia was certain she’d locked the door before she went home.” Johnny Schmitt, the Hotel’s owner and chief chef had, in the interim, noticed that the screen over a kitchen window had been torn, leading Schmitt and Gowan to surmise that a single thief had waited until Mrs. Espinoza left the premises, then climbed through the kitchen window to get inside, removed the painting from the wall, detoured to the bar of the Hotel to remove $12.50 in coins from the register, and walked back out through the kitchen door, leaving it unlocked as he departed. (The theft of the petty cash would seem to rule out a hotel guest as the art thief since guests pay upwards of $80 for an overnight stay.) Having to wedge her investigations in around a constantly ringing phone and her many other duties, it wasn’t until Wednesday morning that Mrs. Gowan was certain a theft had occurred and found the time to call the Sheriff’s Department to report it. Deputy Palma seemed surprised that anyone would steal a painting. Deputy Palma took the report and promised he’d put it “in the file.” The painting, by Mendocino artist Julie Higgins, is valued at $450. Ms. Higgins told Mrs. Gowan that she is flattered that someone would steal one of her paintings, but it was the first time she’d been robbed of her art since she was in high school when a fellow student stole a poster of hers he’d coveted. Mrs. Gowan said last week that the theft of the painting was the first time a work of art had been stolen from the Hotel where local artists display their work year-round. “We did have a little spree of coffee mug disappearances last summer,” Mrs. Gowan remembers. “In a three-week period we lost twenty-four mugs at $18 each. People don’t think of it as theft, I guess.” The Hotel has arranged fair compensation for Ms. Higgins. Mrs. Gowan thinks the robber will be haunted by his theft. “Every time he looks at it on the wall it will bother him,” she says, with perhaps an optimism unjustified by the prevailing morality.
1997: "THE SUPES have approved $11,350 to clean up seven illegal dump sites strewn throughout Anderson Valley. An estimated 150 garbage truck loads (5,000 cubic tons) has found its fouling way to The Valley’s roadsides and will be collected and hauled to Ukiah. After the clean-up, berms will be pushed into place to prevent easy resumption of illegal deposits at these sites. The Ukiah City Council has magnanimously offered a small discount at the Ukiah landfill where the refuse has been offered a home."
POT: FIRST DO NO HARM
Board of Supervisors, County of Mendocino
My wonky but heartfelt letter to the BOS regarding the cannabis land use ordinance they will be voting on tomorrow:
Dear Supervisors Gjerde, Haschak, McGourty, Mulheren and Williams:
In my work with the Redwood Valley Municipal Advisory Council’s Cannabis Policy committee (though I speak only for myself in this letter), I have been tasked with a lot of reading and conversations to try to get up to speed on the enormous decision you face today. It is my understanding that the County’s current cannabis ordinance is unworkable, in that it is in conflict with State requirements. We have only until June 30, 2021 to establish an updated ordinance or we default to the State’s much more rigorous program including requirements for an Environmental Impact Report and site-specific CEQA.
Some Mendocino County residents feel that following the State’s program is the best option, believing that our natural environment is what makes Mendocino County special; believing that there is value in preserving it—not for its economic value, but for itself.
Others feel that we must use this choice as an opportunity to create new economic development, and leverage it to address our county’s historic poverty, and the very real need for families to support themselves as small cultivators or as employees of large cultivators.
While considering this dilemma, I remembered a concept I had encountered years ago in my work in the sustainable built environment industry—the Precautionary Principle, a philosophical and legal framework widely used around the world to make decisions such as this. According to Wikipedia, “the principle is often used by policy makers in situations where there is the possibility of harm from making a certain decision (e.g. taking a particular course of action) and conclusive evidence is not yet available.” According to the World Health Organization, the Precautionary Principle suggests “that where there is an identifiable risk of serious or irreversible harm, including, for example, extinction of species, widespread toxic pollution in major threats to essential ecological processes, it may be appropriate to place the burden of proof on the person or entity proposing the activity that is potentially harmful to the environment. It is also explained that if the environmental risks being run by regulatory inaction are in some way “uncertain but non-negligible”, then a regulatory action is justified. This will lead to the question as to what is the `non-negligible risk'. In such a situation, the burden of proof is to be placed on those attempting to alter the status quo. They are to discharge this burden by showing the absence of a `reasonable ecological or medical concern'. That is the required standard of proof. The result would be that if insufficient evidence is presented by them to alleviate concern about the level of uncertainty, then the presumption should operate in favor of environmental protection.”
The reason I bring the Precautionary Principle to your attention today is because it is a widely used tool to make decisions when there is a conflict of interest to be legislated. I hope it will inform the decision you make today. If it is possible that a course of action will create future harm to our environment (and thereby human health and safety), the wise decision is to say no. If the proponents of allowing large cannabis cultivation into our rangelands and and drought-threatened agricultural valleys are certain there will be no environmental harm, let the burden of proof be on them.
The last point I want to make is that we have more than two months before the June 30th deadline. I strongly believe it is possible and imperative to craft a better ordinance within that time. I urge you to vote no on Agenda Item 3b, the Commercial Cannabis Activity Land Use Development Ordinance. We can and must do better for our environment and our people—the people here now, and those who will live in a future Mendocino County we are designing with our decisions today.
Thank you sincerely for your service and your leadership.
CATCH OF THE DAY, April 19, 2021
THOMAS HANOVER, Ukiah. Domestic battery, probation revocation. (Frequent Flyer)
JOSEPH HOAGLIN, Ukiah. Controlled substance for sale, paraphernalia.
RAYMOND MARTINEZ, Laytonville. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, criminal threats, saps or similar weapons.
WILLIAM MOON, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation.
MARIA PETERS-PICKETT, Ukiah. Domestic battery, protective order violation, probation revocation.
JACOB SELLMER, Ukiah. Vandalism, failure to appear.
EMMA STEELHUNT, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. Failure to appear.
MARTY SWAYZE, Ukiah. Misdemeanor hit&run with property damage, child neglect/abandonment, failure to appear.
JACOB WALTRIP, Ukiah. Vehicle theft with prior, evasion.
MAHIMA YAQOOB, Ukiah. Taking vehicle without owner’s consent.
HEMINGWAY ALMOST KILLED ME
by Steve Heilig
The favorite books of one's youth can be dangerous stuff. One of the highest-risk authors for me turned out to be Ernest Hemingway. His writing almost killed me in at least in three ways. That wasn't his fault, of course; I was young, male, American, susceptible, born by a Hemingway-esque man not only from “the greatest generation” but also a war veteran and confirmed sportsman from the same region as Hemingway himself. So I came by it all honestly, and also am lucky to have survived this long.
I'm not sure which of his classics I first encountered but I read lots of them while still a teen - “The Sun Also Rises,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “A Farewell to Arms,” and “The First 49 Stories” being the top four, and generally seen as his - or anybody's, really - best work. It can be fascinating and sometimes disillusioning decades later to reread books loved as a youth. Signature works by, say, Kerouac and Brautigan, so romantically adventurous at early exposure, can too often appear silly, even sad, from a more adult perspective. But early Hemingway holds up, and reveals much more of his skill and sadness to a more mature reader. But even though he had little political or other advice to offer, his example could be the most risky of all.
The new Ken Burns Hemingway bio-series shows in tragic detail how, doomed by a dysfunctional family, war, head injuries, alcohol, and warped expectations of romance, fame and adventure, Hemingway led a largely depressed and desperate inner life. Suicide occurred shockingly often in his lineage. Those around him suffered by association, whether human or other species (other than his many beloved, polydactyl cats). His work from the start was infused with death. But still he colored what and how an entire generation of readers, especially male westerners, saw what a good life could and should be. One could argue there was/is a lot of blood on his hands, both literally and historically.
My own father was one prime example. I think the Hemingway books were the only ones he ever gave me. Pop had grown up in the same region as Hemingway too, fishing and hunting in upper Minnesota and Michigan, then into the Navy in the Pacific in WWII and then to California for an overly successful career in “defense” (read: offense). So fatherhood for him largely meant teaching me - but not my sisters, of course - to shoot, fish, fight, and impress people, especially females. Nothing seemed really wrong with that, unless one was an animal of prey (or maybe a woman, or a liver). Then I was mostly on my own. But I kept reading Hemingway, along with everything else.
I never got into hunting, thankfully, and after one trip into the Sierras - via private 4-seater plane - like “Hem” in his 1930s nonfiction book “Green Hills of Africa” - where I refused to pull the trigger on a beautiful deer, an easy shot. Even though I'd already been certified by the NRA as a skilled “junior marksman” following many rigorous weekends at the firing range, my mild affair with guns was already done. Fishing lasted longer. Hemingway's late novel “The Old Man and the Sea” seemed to me, as noted in the Burns doc, an almost comic caricature of Hemingway's style, even though it garnered him his Nobel. But it and the even later “Islands in the Stream” and others portrayed big-game fishing, and we also flew down into Baja and the Mexican mainland for drunken sail-fishing excursions. I did catch a few big marlin and other, tastier fish such as tuna. My dad actually had a marlin record for a time, taking over 4 hours to reel in an almost 600-pounder. But soon the killing there also seemed to me pointless at best, even though local folks were given the big fish as food. The boozing and smoking was at murderous levels too. Even as a young man I soon realized that was not a direction I should or could go. But I still yearned for the big adventures.
So, thanks to better role models both on paper and in real life, I narrowly escaped the two traps of excess alcohol and machismo. But it was the third Hemingway example that almost killed me young: Running with bulls. That cultural spectacle from the Spanish town of Pamplona famously appears in “The Sun Also Rises”, and it stuck with me as a cool adventurous thing to try someday - so much so that I put it on my list of life goals, scribbled out at 17 or 18 years old. About eight years later, much more educated and supposedly mature but still not too wise, while wandering Europe I drove down from my aunt's place in Paris to the mountainous Basque Pyrenees region of Northern Spain to see what might be possible. It was the Fiesta of San Fermin, held early each July, a weeklong bacchanal of parties, parades, drinking, singing, bullfights, and the famed/infamous 'running of the bulls.” Some version of this event has been held since 1591; Saint Fermín was a Pamplona bishop who travelled far and wide converting people to Christianity.
I'd bought Hemingway's “Death in the Afternoon” in Paris. It's his 1932 exploration of all things bullfighting, said in the Burns documentary to be his effort to show he still had it at the ripe old age of 33; he'd thought his popularity was already waning after his run of classics in the 1920s. And indeed some judge some of the writing in “Death” to be among his very best. “At the first bullfight I ever went to I expected horrified and perhaps sickened by what I had been told would happen to the horses,” he begins. ”I suppose, from a modern moral point of view, that is, a Christian point of view, the whole thing is indefensible...”. As already a confirmed vegetarian and animal lover, I figured I'd abhor bullfighting, but still wanted to see what it was all about after reading so much about it. I read this book like an anthropologist. Pure machismo? Brazen torture and slaughter? Deep cultural phenomenon? All of the above? I'd go see for myself.
But before the bullfights, my real incentive: The running of the doomed bulls, or encierro, from encerrar, “to corral or enclose” - which is what occurs, as the six bulls set to be “fought” and killed in the yes, afternoon are loosened early in the morning to run through enclosed streets to the big arena. It began, as I vaguely recall, at 8am each morning of the fiesta. Now, this was a punishing time to be up and running for one's life, as the fiesta, and the severe heat of the day there (I seem to recall a bank clock/thermometer reading 42 degrees centigrade one scorching afternoon, as in, 107F) meant the celebrating, including prolonged massive amounts of cheap Spanish wine, started late, after long afternoon siestas. It was safe to say that at least 90% of the males - all males - in the way of the bulls each morning were also fighting off severe hangovers. Or perhaps I was mostly projecting.
Hemingway was at San Fermin in 1925, the same age I was when there, and writes in “Sun” of yes, awakening with a bad headache, guzzling coffee, hearing the rocket go off that announces the bulls set free on one side of the town to run the corralled streets to the bullring, and running to see. “There was a great shout from the crowd, and putting my head through the boards I saw the bulls just coming out of the street into the long running pen. They were running fast and gaining on the crowd.....there were so many people running ahead of the bulls that the mass thickened and slowed up going through the gate into the ring, and as the bulls passed, galloping together, muddy-sided, horns swinging, one shot ahead, caught a man in the running crowd in the back and lifted him into the air. Both the man's arms were by his sides, his head went back as the horn went in, and the bull lifted him and then dropped him.....”
That running human is soon reported dead, as Hemingway gets more coffee and toast in another café. “All for sport,” remarks a waiter in disgust. Almost 60 years later I was not aware how many people got gored, surviving or not, as I stood in the crowd in that same runway. I remembered this passage from the book though. I'd put on the mandatory cheap white shirt and red bandanna to look like I belonged, but I wasn't so sure if that was true. But no matter, there went the rocket, and suddenly all the drunks and hungover drunks milling around me went very quiet, listening. Within a couple minutes that seemed much longer the sound of running and yelling could be heard, and then, as in that famed fiction, here came a cluster of fast-running men (all men). I couldn't yet see any bulls but took off too.
After ten yards or so I glanced back and there they were, coming up fast as men jumped out of the way, pressed themselves against the wooden railing on one side or storefronts on the other, or even dove to the ground against the edges. I looked forward and saw that most of the stores had their metal grades down over the entryways, but a few did not. Men were cramming themselves into those like the proverbial frat boys into a phone booth. I looked back again and saw a bull about ten feet behind, passing a man pressed up against the wall; even though almost by him, the bull leisurely, seemingly for “fun,” slanted a long sharp horn over for a quick slash of the man's shirt, if not his skin. That was enough for me - I jumped into a doorway full of bodies, shoving in between a couple guys and almost pushing one out into the road. The six bulls thundered by.
Back out into the road, there was collective elation; we'd survived. Some took off trotting in the directions the bulls had run, to “play” with them in the bullring. This struck me as overly tempting fate, and indeed I learned later that more were hurt there than anywhere else. The bullfights wouldn't begin until late in the afternoon, when more shade had hit the arena (tickets in shade cost significantly more, but were worth it if you could get them). It was time for food and some “hair of the dog,” I could check another pointless accomplishment off of my list.
I'll spare the details of the bullfights here. The whole phenomenon is so complex, mannered, subtle, with so many unwritten rules and rituals that Hemingway's “Death” book runs well over 300 pages. But yes, the bulls are taunted, bled, then killed. Call it torture. Occasionally, rarely, one is spared if he bullfighter is unable to do things “right.” Occasionally a bullfighter is gored; more often, a horse in the ring is hurt. Stepping back and viewing it all as the proverbial Man from Outer Space, it is one of the most bizarre and cruel human rituals of all. One can imagine it took centuries to develop in the hot Spanish plains, perhaps mostly out of boredom; it will likely take as long to die out, if it ever does. Seeing it a couple of times, once to say I did, twice to be sure, was more than enough. Anyway, after surviving the encierro, tomorrow I'd head back downhill to the coast, to the lovely city of San Sebastian for cooling dips into the water and some delicious seafood.
“The gun-penis-death thing is so sad as well as ugly,” observed the renowned and scarily prolific current writer Rebecca Solnit about Hemingway in 2015, in an essay titled “80 Books No Woman Should Read.” I take exception to her title's proposal, even if made partly in jest, for literature has never meant to be any kind of “safe space” - quite the contrary. But Solnit seems sadly right about the man himself. “If you learn a lot from Gertrude Stein you shouldn't be a homophobic, anti-Semitic misogynist, and shooting large animals should never be equated with masculinity.” He did volunteer himself into three wars, on the right sides of each, and “saw combat” in at least two of them, so it wasn't all fake bravado. But, as his four wives and many others could and sometimes would attest, he was a personal nightmare much of the time. But his books and image undeniably colored what countless men figured was the best way to live. Solnit went on to describe his writing as “mannered and pretentious and sentimental,” adding that “manly sentimental is the worst kind of sentimental.” Which is all harsh and largely true, at least from our time's viewpoint, and I also have real reservations about judging such things from presumably more enlightened and much later times, and about “cancelling” writers from that perspective (Solnit also called Hemingway's prose “Lego blocks,” but I'm not sure what that might means; kids' toys?). As the Burns documentary notes repeatedly, Hemingway so heavily dominated modern American fiction for a time that nothing was the same after it. One can't just wipe that away even at this late date.
In any event I was glad to have read him, was glad I was not him, and even more glad to have survived him. But I've never forgotten that running bull's horn passing within inches of me, and the bull's wide frightened and furious eye seeming to stare for a long second into mine as he passed, unknowingly on his way to death just a few hours later.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
It is very disturbing to see Lake Mendocino completely dry… It’s April 19th guys!
There is a small lake across the street from my house, also completely drying up, for the 2nd year in a row…
Clear Lake is down about 20ft.
When our entire area catches on fire, and it will, there won’t be water available for the scooper planes, the helicopters…
Pot farming and grape growing operations have expanded exponentially in the last 8-10 years. Not only has water been removed from the aquifer, but runoff, streams, creeks and rivers have been channeled into private water tanks and storage facilities… The sheer amount of runoff that never reaches lakes and rivers is pretty amazing…
The governments of North Coast Counties are cognizant, and, at some point, farmers will be forced to just stop growing…
2021 is not the year to expand! Mendocino is choking on weed, and so is Humboldt!
Put the brakes on! You are going to have a thirsty summer!
Mendocino County is pretty lost, and stands as a perfect example of what not to do! Lake County growers are no better.
Greedy humans are not beneficial to the environment, no matter where they reside.
On the other hand, living near a big lake, is probably the best thing to do, during an extended drought, but we also know that we have to conserve water, yesterday, today and always!
Farmers need to be stewards of the environment, always, and YOU are responsible for conserving our resources!
THE MOVIE FOLLOWS THE SCRIPT
by James Kunstler
Rep. Maxine Waters (D – Calif) laid it out neatly Friday night on a visit to Minneapolis, where she apparently went to stir a pot of racial hatred that was already on boil without her help, following the accidental killing of felonious bail jumper Daunte Wright (first-degree aggravated robbery, fleeing from police, and possession of a handgun without a permit): “We got to stay on the street,” Ms. Waters yelled at the mob gathered in the suburb of Brooklyn Center, “get more confrontational!”
Yes, exactly what the sore-beset city needs, as it awaits this week’s verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, about which she added: “I am very hopeful… that we will get a verdict that says guilty, guilty, guilty. If we do not, we will not go away.”
Former police officer Chauvin is charged with Murder 2, Murder 3, and Manslaughter all predicated on varying degrees of intention and recklessness in the death of George Floyd, the internationally acclaimed saint-of-oppressed-peoples who died under Mr. Chauvin’s knee in an indelible video shared ‘round the world last May. The video has the status of a religious icon, portraying, as it seems to, the vivid distillation of the black experience in America: pure, unalloyed, hateful, murderous subjugation.
The trouble is what’s not in the indelible picture: Mr. Floyd’s prodigious ingestion of the world’s hardest narcotic, fentanyl, at a level likely to cause death, plus methedrine, plus THC, on top of a 90-percent blockage of a coronary artery, and other cardiopathies, and Covid-19, all according to the official medical examiner. Also, as it happened in the instance of his arrest, Mr. Floyd was failing to follow police instructions, and acting dangerously deranged — behavior apt to lead to police restraint, under which he died, rest his soul.
So, now it will be left to the jury to sort all this out, under the threat of getting “doxed” (having their home addresses disclosed) by the Black Lives Matter org, as well as following the $27-million lawsuit settlement on the Floyd family for “wrongful death” by the Minneapolis City Council before the trial commenced — not exactly a propitious lead-in for a fair outcome. One might even view the public expressions of black opinion leaders and politicians as coercive — but then coercion is the animating spirit of liberal Wokery, the wish and the will to punish at all costs.
In any case, the fine spring weather around the country invites the young and energetic to caper angrily in the streets after a harsh winter of lockdowns. The mobs will turn out, things will burn, businesses will get looted (and destroyed), and people will get hurt. So it will be for two reasons: groups of people follow social scripts and societies give tacit permission for the acting-out of feelings — in this case, feelings of grievance that demand retribution and vengeance.
What’s actually at issue here is whether black people in America really want to join with the other ethnic groups present in the land in a national common culture — that is, a consensus about behavior, ceremonies, and manners — or would rather opt out of it, oppose it, or violently destroy what’s left of it. The key to these questions is how to explain the failure-to-thrive of a large black demographic despite the apparent victories of a long civil rights campaign, colossal expenditures of tax money for assistance, and affirmative action galore. I would explain it as the malign influence of neurotic white liberalism acting on the aforesaid black ambivalence about joining in or remaining apart from that common culture.
The upshot, for now, is that white liberalism has given black America permission to act violently and destructively, to disobey the law, to oppose officers attempting to enforce the law, and to justify the whole package of uncivil behavior on the grounds that “systemic racism” and “white supremacy” are the forces that keep black Americans from thriving. The script for all this prevails because liberalism cannot otherwise explain its own failure to uplift black America over many years of sedulous striving. They are left disappointed, ashamed, and guilty, and neurotically give themselves permission to support black hostility and hatred against white people as a form of self-punishment. The catch is that not all white people in America are neurotic liberals and they are not in favor of continuing white self-punishment.
The question at hand is how much longer this crazy script will be allowed to run. It appears that the country is about evenly split between those in favor of promoting black hostility and those disinclined to further submission. It’s up to American political leadership to decide, and for now the liberals are the party holding the levers of power — government, in essence, representing the blunt force that determines which way things go. And, at the head of this government sits the inert and tractable Joe Biden, who seems to have had it decided for him.
(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon Page.)
TO THE INTELLIGENT MAN OR WOMAN, life appears infinitely mysterious. But the stupid have an answer for every question.
ON LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK
 You have waves of destruction of demand as per-capita oil decreases, EA. 2008 destroyed the idea that you could buy a house 60 miles outside LA and drive to work in a pickup truck; the additional cost for gasoline made the lower house prices untenable. So that temporarily removed one segment of the population from oil consumption.
When people drop out of the oil-demanding economy, prices will drop. But as more and more people cannot afford oil (that’s what dropping per-capita consumption means), they live poorer and more stressful lives. Those homeless you see who aren’t mentally ill? Their non-participation in intensive oil use left oil for you to use, and their removal in bidding for supply kept your price lower.
Throw them a buck next time you speed past in thanks.
 Many people I have overheard lately talking about having gotten the vaccine, talk about it as though it were a supremely honor-worthy rite of passage, a signal to the world that they have heard the message and now expect to receive the teacher’s gold star. They strike me that they want to toady to somebody, but they have no recipient for their toadying, so they spuriously and freely broadcast their message of having been oh-so-virtuous. Frankly, it’s more than a bit revolting.
 So yesterday in Branford some some guy barricaded himself inside his house, shot it out with the cops, ended up losing his life after a 7 hour standoff. Branford is a pretty little town on the Sound, really now just a suburb of New Haven. More shootouts in Hartford too, 1 dead. It seems like this civilization has been destabilized by Covid and the response to Covid. People who were on the edge before, have gone over the edge. A madness is loose across the land. I’m reminded of ‘Wisconsin Death Trip’ (the book and the film), which dealt with societal disintegration in a midwestern town during the Depression of 1896. Nihilistic violence is the common theme.
 FENTANYL, an on-line comment:
The problem here is that Mexican Bathtub Fentanyl often isn’t exactly Fentanyl, but an analog which could well be even more potent…
The garbage is mixed into pill molds, and sold as many other drugs. “Black Tar substance” may contain more Fentanyl Analogs than Heroin, and often, the dose is anybody’s guess…
Addicts are falling out more and more often, and simply shooting up or smoking what dealers are providing may well be the last thing the addict ever does.
Don’t take this stuff, locally, even a Pink Crystal being sold as “Molly” has been shown to actually contain Fentanyl Analogs at a dose high enough to be lethal to the non-acclimated user.
When you think about it, using a completely unknown agent for smoking or shooting-up, is pure insanity.
Fentanyl Analog has been found in Methamphetamine, Cocaine, and other street drugs for years.
Micrograms can kill. Be cognizant.
 You gotta admit this Mick Jagger chap has staying power. 60 years on we’re still talking about him. Rudy Vallee was a big pop singing star in the 1920 and 1930s; he lived I think till 1986 but who cared about Rudy Vallee in 1986? Jagger must be pushing 80, when he goes toes up in a few years do you think it’ll be big news?
 If you insist that men can be women, you’re a liar. You’re lying to yourself, and you’re lying to everyone around you, and everyone knows it. You’re the person in the story who fawns over the naked emperor’s non-existent clothes just so you can feel accepted. Meanwhile everyone knows you’re lying. Knock it off.
If you insist on forcing everyone else to participate in your lie, you’re a bully and a member of the thought police. (Hint: the thought police were villains in the story, not heroes.) Stop it.
If you’re a male who forces yourself into women’s private spaces without our consent, you’re behaving like a predator and will be treated as such, regardless of what you’re wearing or how you feel about yourself. You possess male bodied privilege whose physical power advantage is not neutralized by the addition of a dress or synthetic estrogen.
If you’re a teenage girl suffering from dysphoria who desperately wants to eliminate the parts of yourself that make you vulnerable to men, welcome to womanhood. Your body is not the enemy; the way the world engages your body is to blame. Removing your breasts will not make you a man. Growing a stubbly beard will not magically erase your vulnerability or awkwardness. Shunning your parents when they tell you the truth about this will not eliminate your struggle. It is hard to be a woman. It takes a type of strength you can’t find in a set of hormonally altered biceps.
But women have been doing it for centuries, and you can, too. If you’re a member of the media writing headlines convincing people that trans identified people are being “banned from sports” or “denied healthcare,” STOP LYING. No one is being banned from sports; they’re being required to play on the team of their sex. No one is being denied healthcare; they’re preventing butchers from sterilizing children. Again with the lies.
I am sick to death of talking about this issue. I’m sick of being told to “educate myself” by people who haven’t studied the matter even a tiny fraction as thoroughly as I have. I’m sick of watching women fawn all over themselves to center men in feminism because it makes them feel like good people, and I’m sick of watching men stand idly by while primarily females are harmed because it just doesn’t affect them that much on a personal level. All I can say is that it’s high past time for people to start telling the truth. That’s all. It’s not that hard. You just have to care
 Sorry to say this, really, but wait until you’re old, like me and have to watch friends and family pass away. I’ve lost 5 uncles, at least 7 aunts a number of cousins and some friends. And most importantly, both my parents and my sister, leaving me the only one left in my immediate family; oh, yeah, my cat who I really loved and had for 15 years. For some reason that got to me the most.
You know how you’re getting old? When you start reading the obituaries. I never used to, but now…
 One of my earliest memories was a very close encounter with maybe 5 or 6 elephants when I was somewhere around 3 years old. I remember being frustrated by not being able to complete my sentences out loud- although maybe it was from being overly emotional.
My mother brought me to the zoo. I was absolutely fascinated by the elephants and noticed that the big iron fence containing them was just above a gutter and the fence was lifted a little bit off the bottom of that gutter. Just enough I thought.. Yes! I can do that! I waited and as soon as my mother turned her back I rushed over and quickly scooted underneath the fence and into the elephant cage. “Elephants!” I said, and lifted my arms up.
Luckily for me those bored caged elephants were equally fascinated by the little baby human who had come so close. They very slowly crowded all around me and gently lifted their trunks out to touch me oh so carefully. They touched my dress but didn’t touch my skin directly with their trunks- only the hairs of their trunks. They softly breathed in my scent and then they smiled. The rest of their bodies were perfectly still and they were calm. I kept still but was elated and crying. They were so beautiful. They felt beautiful. I swear to this day they were the most loving beings.
Our little world was then suddenly ripped apart by the zoo keeper who ran into the pen and beat the elephants off of me with a short whip. At least, that was what he was doing in his mind. He was frantic. So sad and unfair I thought. Only then did I hear my mother outside the pen screaming. The elephants had completely surrounded me and no one could see what they were doing. I later wondered if they would have understood if they were able to see it.
The zoo keeper yanked and dragged me out of the pen and curtly handed me in my filthy dress to my screaming mother. Boy, was I ever in trouble. It was so worth it. I will never forget how beautiful and intelligent they felt. I was in heaven all the way home and barely even heard my mother’s admonishments and threats “if I ever did that again. It was a long time till we went to the zoo again.
Don’t try this at home.
 Good grief … can you imagine America without Black Culture? Eating like Germans, dressing like the English, dancing like Russians, and singing like Belgians. And the humor of the Swiss, the football prowess of Bulgarians, and the basketball skill of the Scots. Thank goodness they stayed. Anyway after 240 years as Americans they had (and have) as much right to be on their “native soil” as Sergy Kowalski, Lars Larsen, Giuseppe Carboni or Sean McBride.
AN AFGHANISTAN VETERAN Looks Back on the ‘First Postmodern War’
by Matt Taibbi
I first met Adrian Bonenberger in 2014, after he completed two tours in Afghanistan. He’d published Afghan Post, a painful epistolary memoir about his experiences. Bonenberger started that book a breezy, confident, idealistic young officer, but as he came across more cruelty, waste, and corruption, started to break down, second-guessing not only the mission but himself, i.e. why he’d volunteered.
At the outset of Afghan Post Bonenberger referenced everything from the illustrated versions of The Odyssey and The Iliad he read as a kid, to All Quiet on the Western Front. But after years of head-scratching missions, circuitous contracting schemes, and lies sent down from above (and demanded in return), he seemed to realize, unpleasantly, that his experience was less Homer and more Catch-22.
He laughs some, but mostly the absurdity crushes him. A selection of passages gives a snapshot of his progression:
My life is in near-perfect harmony… This is what I’ve been aiming for, a sense of balance, of co-existing with the world. My job at this instant is precisely what it needs to be, no more, no less. I’m a good commander, man… Life feels correct.
We aren’t here to defeat the enemy; that’s impossible with our resources. We’re here to occupy them, to distract them from the women wearing blue jeans in Kabul.
No matter how many rifle-bearing insurgents we kill, they only seem to increase in numbers and proficiency.
I just want to keep bashing away at the Taliban until they quit. I refuse to stop. I will break them with constant patrolling…
What are we doing. This makes no sense. I feel my grasp on humanity slipping away. The army believes the solution to this is behavioral health. We’d do better with some religious/moral equivalent — sadly, our own multi-faith shepherd/ expert does not provide me with anything like the type of certainty I’d need to get me through this or buck-up.
He unravels, and as the diary goes on, seems to become more concerned with his own mental survival than with making sense of the mission, which becomes little more than an absurdist plot point. By the end, he writes, “Afghanistan is sending me out, as though I never set foot here, utterly unchanged,” adding:
The landscape is so harsh and unforgiving — on the one hand, the people I see trying to drag a living from the dust seem like heroes or madmen — on the other hand, they move slowly and without obvious desperation — it’s only after a great deal of time spent around them that you realize this transcends the fatalist predisposition of their culture… These people are the embodiment of despair; life without hope of improvement, waiting for an early death from disease, accident, or murder.
Can’t wait to leave this place and these thoughts behind.
I thought of Adrian after Joe Biden announced that “I have concluded that it’s time to end America’s longest war.” The question that faded from view by the end of Adrian’s two tours was one of the first Biden addressed.
We went to Afghanistan, President Biden said, “to ensure Afghanistan would not be used as a base from which to attack our homeland again.” And “we did that. We accomplished that objective.”
Is that true? Less than a day after Biden’s speech, even would-be allies of the administration like former Clinton adviser Richard Clarke were saying that there was a “high probability” the Afghan government would fall, and Westerners would soon be chased out by the Taliban, in scenes likely to recall the scrum for helicopter seats in Saigon in 1975.
Is Clarke wrong? If not, what was the point? Was there ever one? I asked Adrian’s perspective, as a former soldier:
Matt Taibbi: Do you believe it? That we’re leaving?
Adrian Bonenberger: I'm just going to go full Charlie Brown and say, yes. Yes, I do. I think they're going to leave. Hold the football, Lucy. Here I come.
MT: What were some of the first things that concerned you about the mission?
Adrian Bonenberger: The first time I went, I was a first lieutenant. I think I became a captain after I got back from the first deployment. That was with the 173rd Airborne. It was a very kinetic deployment… The terrain wasn't as bad where we were. Most of the KIAs, the people who died were hit by IEDs in Humvees.On that first deployment, I got to see the Humvees swapped out for MRAPs [eds. note: Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle]. I remember reading all this stuff about how Humvees were terrible, and they were. They broke down all the time. They weren't designed for 15,000 pounds of armor. They were not designed for a mountain environment. In this desperate attempt to field stronger-armored vehicles, we got MRAPs, which are these giant, lumbering mine-resistant vehicles.
I didn't realize at the time, but it was a $50 billion expedited program to swap out every up-armored Humvee with MRAPs. What they didn't know when we got the MRAPs was that here we are, on the border of Pakistan with a bunch of roads that we built that barely supported Humvees, so when we get these MRAPs… I was actually in a rollover in one.There was a fill that collapsed because we were driving over in a vehicle that weighed about 40,000 pounds. The Humvee weighed 20,000 pounds. We blamed the Afghan contractor at the time. It sounds psychotic, but we were like, “Oh, yeah. The Afghans built this substandard road. It’s their fault.”That felt so emblematic. It feels to me today so emblematic. We only had those MRAPs in service for five years. We spent $50 billion bucks for a five-year rental, and then sold them to police stations across America. Those MRAPs that did fuck-all for us in Afghanistan are now what the police are using, presumably, for their small towns.
MT: That’s via the 1033 program, where the Pentagon sells its surplus equipment to localities?
Adrian Bonenberger: Exactly.
MT: I remember in Iraq, they recalled the original Humvees and had heavier doors put in, I think to repel rockets.
Adrian Bonenberger: Right.
MT: So in Afghanistan, they did that, and then switched out the replacement Humvees for the MRAPs?
Adrian Bonenberger: When they up-armored the Humvee, they surrounded these things with armor, because obviously, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you want, per the ridiculous claim by Donald Rumsfeld.
That armor was good at protecting you against RPGs and bullets. We were getting shot at, and I remember vehicles coming back from patrols, all of them had been shot up, and all of the windows were just spider-webbed, but the bulletproof windows would stop the bullets. The problem was when they started putting IEDs in the road, it would channel the blast through the cabin, and ended up just killing everybody in it. The thing that was good at keeping the bullets out ended up being the worst possible design for IEDs.
MT: Because it kept the blast inside the vehicle?
Adrian Bonenberger: Exactly.
MT: They didn't figure that out until later?
Adrian Bonenberger: I just don’t know, man. So many times, so much of our policy, so much of how we... I mean, if we even had a policy, it was reactive and responsive. It seems impossible that nobody, no chemist or no engineer, said, “Hey, if a bomb hits the bottom of this, it's going to turn these guys into Campbell’s Soup.” Nobody was in the room that said, “This is only solving this one problem, but this other problem, it's going to make it much bigger.” Insurgents, not being stupid, are probably going to figure that out.With the MRAP, the big thing was the V-shaped hull. It's going to be V-shaped on the bottom so the explosion will go around it. Well, I think that certainly helped. That was better, and I saw IEDs that definitely would’ve killed people in Humvees, not kill people in MRAPs, but it didn't do away with the problem of IEDs. It created this other problem of these vehicles are so fucking heavy, you couldn't drive anywhere without rolling over and almost dying in a different way.
MT: Did they have to build new roads?
Adrian Bonenberger: I think what happened was we just left. We just got out before they could do that stuff. Eventually, yes, they would’ve had to have built the new roads, which we wanted to do anyway. Yeah, I think we were there for another two or three years in that place where my first deployment happened, and then we left. We haven’t been back.That’s Taliban. The Taliban own that area now. They’ve owned that for a decade.
MT: Are there other contracting issues you remember?
Adrian Bonenberger: We only had the MRAPs for a few years. By the time I went back, they were already getting swapped out for something called the M-ATV, an off-road vehicle on steroids. It was a lot better. There's always a new vehicle. Another crazy angle was that Biden bragged in a 2020 campaign ad about his involvement in the MRAP push, and the myth of their effectiveness is so complete nobody interrogated the claim. I imagine if anyone registered it in Trumpland it was to grudgingly concede that Biden had played a leading role in fielding MRAPs, which they probably imagined was a good thing.
Another thing that I remember very vividly was when I was a commander on my second deployment, we had these crypto devices that would fill the radios so the radios could talk to each other via encryption. It’s not like the Taliban had signals, units, or anything else, but we were doing these things in case we ever fought a military that did have the capacity to crack encryption.We would do this very religiously, and they’re these black boxes that you could throw them on the ground, they wouldn’t break. Everybody knew how to use them. Everybody had been trained on them, and they were a line item on my inventory as a commander, like $4,800, $4,900 bucks apiece. About $5,000 bucks apiece.
I think we had three months left on deployment when a contractor came into the office one day and said, “Hey, you’re getting new crypto devices.” I looked at them and they looked like... Do you remember, I think they’re called pen pilots...
MT: Palm pilots?
Adrian Bonenberger: Palm pilots. That's it. It looked like a palm pilot. This is the very end of 2010, early 2011, I already had soldiers who had smartphones. When we would get up to Tajikistan, and they could get cell coverage, they would be posting their statuses. I may be one of the earliest commanders to deal with the problem of a soldier posting on social media in the field. It was like, “Dude, text your girlfriend, whatever — I get it, but please do not give away our position to the enemy.”
Anyway we get these palm pilot things that are supposed to be the latest and greatest, and we were a week away from going out on a pretty long mission, a week-long operation, and so I told the contractor, “Thanks. We don't really need these. Why don't you just give these to the unit that's training right now to replace us? They'll have some time to get comfortable with them.”
His response was, “Maybe I didn't explain myself. You're getting these. I'm here to train you.”
I went to the battalion commander, and said, “This makes no sense to me.
I don't have time to train everybody in my unit for these silly new devices that look fragile, they look like palm pilots. I’m very skeptical here.”
He answered, “My hands are tied. These are ours.” Basically, the contractor training you on these is now your commander, for all intents and purposes.Now it’s $12,000 bucks a pop instead of $5,000 bucks a pop.
I’ve heard subsequently that they are actually a far superior device to that original black box, but just the way it was done right before an operation was… I only had time for one soldier, the smart RTO guy, I think his dad was a professor at Princeton, to learn it. He enlisted for dubious reasons. He figured out how to do it, and he just was “the guy who did it,” because nobody else could figure out how to do it.For the rest of the deployment, there was one guy who knew how to use the device, and whenever there was a new code that came out, he had to run around the battlefield, or drive around updating everybody’s communications stuff, which is the dumbest thing I’d ever seen. It also endangered lives. But, that to me was a very tangible example of the military not being there to do a thing, but as a receptacle, as somebody who was required to purchase expensive new stuff that was not wanted or even really needed at that moment.
MT: So it was the tail wagging the dog?
Adrian Bonenberger: That’s exactly right. The tail was wagging the dog.
MT: What was your conception of why you were there?
Adrian Bonenberger: They got bin Laden in May, 2011, which was probably the time we should've gotten out. The most generous explanation for our being there was that we were trying to get him and punish him for 9/11, and then we got him. Then we were still there, for no clear reason. We were all okay with that. I’m okay with that, apparently. That happened ten years ago.Ten years ago next month. We're still there.
MT: I remember in the book of fiction you co-edited, The Road Ahead — I think it was Roxana Robinson in the introduction who talked about how when she asked soldiers if it bothered them that WMDs hadn’t been found, they gave her unexpected answers. What was the understanding in Afghanistan among the people you served with about why you were there? Did they care?
Adrian Bonenberger: That’s a great question. I think it really gets to the heart of the problem with Afghanistan. I was talking with Will Mackin, who was with the SEALs and wrote a really beautiful collection of short fiction… I was telling him that I think the wars on terror have been the first post-modern wars, which sounds so buzzy and annoying, like, “Shut the fuck up, nobody cares about that. That’s dumb.”
But, there is no explanation for why we're there. If you ask ten people why we’re in Afghanistan, or why we’re in Iraq, even, you’ll get ten different answers that are equally plausible. That wasn’t the case in Vietnam. You agreed with why we were in Vietnam or disagreed with it, but we were there to stop communism. A blisteringly stupid and failed idea, but our being there was related to communism in one way, shape, or form.
You’ll find people who will explain to you that Afghanistan has nothing to do with terrorism, that it’s about minerals, or it’s about China, or it’s the great game, or it’s Bin Laden.
MT: Or women’s rights now.
Adrian Bonenberger: Women’s rights was a way that I rationalized being in Afghanistan. It’s a powerful rationalization. There were a couple of girls that I saw wearing blue jeans at the end of my second deployment, and that reduced me to tears, because soldiers get sentimental about dumb stuff, and that seemed like it was validating a narrative that I’d constructed in my head that was important to me.
But is that why we were there? No. No, absolutely not. That’s not why we went. That’s not why we stayed.
That’s what some people may think and say in the op-ed pages so that people feel better about us being there, much in the same way that that’s how I felt good about being there when I was a commander.
That’s not why we went. We went to get bin Laden, I think, ultimately is what most people will say, or said at the time. That isn’t why we went there, but that's the story that’s probably closest to the truth.The Taliban got caught up in it because they refused to hand him over, and nobody said no to the United States of America under George W. Bush. You say no, it’s time to go.
MT: Time to smoke you out of your hidey-holes.
Adrian Bonenberger: Right.
MT: What about the Afghanistan Papers story in the Washington Post? Did you and other vets talk about that when that came out? Military leaders were telling the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) that the war was so expensive in lives and money, and wasn't getting things done. But the public story was different. What was your reaction?
Adrian Bonenberger: Reading it all laid out there, they just lied. The thing that I'm most worried about right now is, I’m already seeing it around the edges. Biden made the announcement this week, and you see email threads and you see it on Twitter, people are like, “But, what about all the progress? What about all the money that we’ve spent?” It's just like, “Guys, you've been deluding yourselves.”
There was this thing that we did, the officers did. It was kind of a joke to us, and I just didn’t put two and two together. It's called Red, Amber, Green Trackers.
The joke was you would have these maps of your AO or your area of operations, and the places that the Taliban had were red, and then were permutations of this, so red-trending-amber meant that the Taliban had it, but maybe there were a couple of guys there that you could work with, whatever.Amber was we patrol there, and we’re trying to flip it green. Amber-trending-green is like, “Oh, the Taliban haven't blown us up here for a few months, and we built them a well.” Then, green is just like, “We got this. The Afghans have it.” The colors would change sometimes. I think blue became a permutation that I saw later. The joke anyway was you would get to the end of the deployment, and all of the red places were listed as red-trending-amber, or amber, and all the places that were amber were now amber-trending-green or green, and all the places that were amber-trending-green were green, 100%. You give it to the next unit, and it all turned red again. It would downgrade one.
MT: They were juking the stats.
Bonenberger: I saw that and I didn't think to myself, “This is dumb.” I knew it was dumb. It was more like, “This is fraud.” This should be illegal. We just all kind of did it all the time. We talked about it, and it’s not like this is a secret. The fact that people were seeing this in the Pentagon and were just like, “Oh, yeah. Of course, we’re just going to keep doing this forever.” There was no plan, and the metrics changed every deployment. They still wanted body counts, EKIA, enemy killed in action.These frauds, the context changes, but it’s the same.
MT: It sounds like Daniel Ellsberg in his book “Secrets,” when he was talking about a tour with John Paul Vann. They had a similar system. I think it was something like, if the local South Vietnamese commander could sleep without a guard at his door at night, then that area was green. He found that every area that had been designated X was actually X minus one, or X minus two, security-wise… Was that basically what was going on?
Adrian Bonenberger: 100%. The only difference being, and this is one of the saddest things to me… Afghanistan, a parade of sad memories, the eternal bitch-fest… It might’ve been two years ago, it might’ve been three years ago, when SIGAR stopped doing a certain type of report, during Trump’s presidency, because they didn’t have access anymore essentially. They still did the report, but they were like, “Look, we can’t go out and survey 80% of these places, because they're under Taliban control. We’re going to attempt to do a QA/QC* of projects as they happen. We’re still going to be active in Kabul, but we just can’t get to half of these places.”I saw that, and I remember thinking, “This should be headline news.” If we can’t go anywhere, we’re already out of Afghanistan in a sense. We're not there. We can’t even establish what is being done with the building that cost $50 million or $100 million bucks to build. What else would you call that, except fraud?
It’s as if somebody justified that thing being built. Oh, it’s a hospital. It’ll be great. Was it being used as a hospital? You go down there, and the Taliban are using it as a school or a madrassa or whatever. Honestly, at this point, I don’t care. I’m glad that it's being used for something, but don't say that it’s going to be a hospital if it’s not going to be a hospital. Just say, “We’re paying for madrassas.” That’s fine. Maybe that’s what Afghanistan needs? I don’t know.
MT: Did you see that? Would they build something, or bid out a contract for something, and it would turn into something else?
Adrian Bonenberger: My second deployment, the first mission I was on was a company-plus mission, maybe a battalion-minus mission, to QA/QC a school that had been built for, I believe, $20 million. It had been completed, but we needed to do a final review of it. It was in Taliban-held territory. We had to fight our way all the way out to QA/QC it. We did that, and determined that the Taliban was using it as a recruiting station! Then, we fought our way out. I was never able to get back there. At the very end, we probably could've gone back out there if we wanted to. We really did “pacify” the province, because of the Afghans. The Afghans did all the heavy lifting. It didn’t last long. It was not something that you can transit again a year or two later, but for that moment, it was. But what is it being used for today? If we’re lucky, it’s being used for that. If we’re not lucky, it's being used for something worse.
MT: Was that mission just to determine if that building was being used correctly?
Adrian Bonenberger: Yes, and it wasn't.
MT: There was an article by William Arkin in Newsweek recently, arguing that just because the uniform boots on the ground may be withdrawing, doesn’t mean we’re leaving. We’ve already started to shift to a system where a lot of the people who are actually engaged in an occupation aren’t even in the country, because they're operating remotely, and/or they're private contractors who don't wear uniforms. Or, they work for some enforcement agency like the DEA or the FBI.
MT: Did you see that process start to evolve while you were there?
Adrian Bonenberger: The most compelling argument against our leaving on a certain level is that it at least leaves the military as some type of official mechanism. Yeah, we’re going to read about them being there.
MT: There’s a way to tell when a soldier dies, at least.
Bonenberger: I remember when Thomas Ricks went on Fox News, and the Fox guy was trying to rake him over the coals over something, and Tom asked, “Do you know how many contractors have died in Iraq?” He paused for a second, and he said, “No.” Tom said, “Nobody does. There’s no way to know. We think 500 to 700 died,” but that's a private company. They keep their own statistics. We will never know how many contractors died in Iraq and Afghanistan. There’s no legal mechanism for determining that, and as a result, we’re just not going to know. Historians hundreds of years from now may be able to mount lengthy campaigns to figure it out. That’s a problem.
The DEA wanted me to do raids on certain militias that were smuggling weapons and drugs, and I refused point-blank. I said, “That’s not my problem. That’s Afghanistan's problem.”
Internally, I figured out, I would've drawn the line on human smuggling, like if I found out that one of my Afghan partners was trafficking humans or slaves, I’d say, “We can’t work together. You're my enemy now.” But with weapons and drugs, I don’t even think drugs should be illegal in this country, so why would I do anything there? But the DEA would ask me to pull security for their raids, and I’d say, “No, I'm not going to do that.”Imagine one of the soldiers dying on that mission. You either would’ve had to lie about it and say that the Taliban was actually there and the Taliban ambushed us, or you'd have to explain that you were doing Colombia-style drug raids on an ally, because the DEA wanted it. It’s so complicated. It makes no sense. It made no sense to me then, and I’m proud that, however sneakily I accomplished it, I stood up for what was right.
MT: What’s your prognosis for what happens now?
Adrian Bonenberger: The Taliban already have, by fairly conservative estimates, the run of 80% of the country. So the Taliban are already there. I think the hope with Afghanistan was always going to be that we could support the Afghans who are interested in a non-Taliban government for enough time for them to get their act together.
If we continue to support them diplomatically and economically, they have a chance, but in the same way that the USSR supported their communist administration in Kabul for I think two or three years before the USSR fell apart. It held on. It wasn't doing great, but it was doing okay. I think we can achieve that. If we can’t, then that’s the most damning indictment possible of everything that we did there, including the things that I did there that I thought were good, and was doing for the right reasons. It means that all of that was just pissing in the wind. The next time we do this, I hope we’ll keep that in mind and do it better, or not at all.
THE FAR-RIGHT PARAMILITARY the Oath Keepers is home to active-duty law-enforcement officers who are training up other members to prepare for civil war, according to one of the group’s top figures. CBS News’ 60 Minutes profiled the increasingly notorious militia on Sunday night, and one of its leaders from Arizona, Jim Arroyo, spoke openly about the close involvement of police officers. “Our guys are very experienced,” said Arroyo. “We have active-duty law enforcement in our organization that are helping to train us. We can blend in with our law enforcement and in fact, in a lot of cases, our training is much more advanced because of our military backgrounds.” Arroyo’s statement was backed up by Javed Ali, an ex-National Security Council senior director and FBI counterterrorism official, who said the Oath Keepers are a “unique and challenging” threat to the U.S. because a “large percentage have tactical training and operational experience in either the military or law enforcement. That at least gives them a capability that a lot of other people in this far-right space don't have.” Dozens of members have been implicated in the storming of the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington. (Daily Beast)
THERE IS A SECRET BOND between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting. Consider this utterly commonplace situation: a man is walking down the street. At a certain moment, he tries to recall something, but the recollection escapes him. Automatically, he slows down. Meanwhile, a person who wants to forget a disagreeable incident he has just lived through starts unconsciously to speed up his pace, as if he were trying to distance himself from a thing still too close to him in time.
— Milan Kundera, 1995; from “Slowness”
WE HAVE NEVER BROKEN with our tradition, never even symbolically hewed it to pieces as the French did in quivering fact in the Terror. But all the organizing ideas have slackened, the old habitual bonds have relaxed or altogether come undone. And America too is, as it were, a detached, outlying part of that estate which has expanded in queer ways. George Washington, Esquire, was of the gentlefolk, and he came near to being a King. It was Plutarch, you know, and nothing intrinsically American that prevented George Washington being a King...
— H.G. Wells, 1909; from “Tono-Bungay”
BRAIN WHITE WASHING
Media Manufactures Acceptance of Cops Killing Whites
by Dr. Nayvin Gordon
What would change if, every day of the year, the lead story in the major news media was the police killing of a White man. Would White America still believe that the police officer is their friend? Would White America ALSO be in the streets demonstrating for an end to murderous police violence? What if ABC news and the New York Times had regular editorials crying out against the police murder of 600 White people every year, would Whites, like Blacks, know that the true nature of the police is not to protect and serve, but to punish and savage working people? For decades multiple sources have documented the police killing of over one thousand people every year. The brutal facts are that 1-2 White people are killed by the police every day — in 2016 total number of deaths was 574; for Blacks 2 are killed every three days, total deaths of 266, and due to anti-Black racism, they are 3 times more likely to be killed.
Contradicting this reality stands the mass media which rarely gives major attention to the police killings of Whites and generally does not even refer to their Whiteness.
The media focus is almost entirely on police killings of Blacks while reinforcing stereotypes. A recent front-page New York Times article about police killings did not mention any specific police killings of white people, all killings were reported as Black, Latino or people of color.
Police violence against White people is minimized, obscured and neglected from coverage in the corporate media, and in this way kept OUT OF THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF WHITE, BLACK AND BROWN PEOPLE, thereby weakening their solidarity. In the words of the great Frederick Douglas: “The hostility between the Whites and the Blacks…is easily explained. It has its root and sap in the relation of slavery, and was incited on both sides by the cunning of the slave (media) masters. Those (corporate) masters secured their ascendancy over both poor White and the Blacks by putting enmity between them. They divided both to conquer (exploit and kill) each.” (My edits)
The media continues to construct a false reality and brainwash the population. Police are not the friend of the people but a racist terror force to control all workers. The sooner America learns the truth that we are more alike than different and come together, the better it will be for ALL of us.
(Dr. Nayvin Gordon lives in Oakland and writes about health and politics. firstname.lastname@example.org)
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