Another Front | Gray Fox | Boonville Proposal | Noyo Harbor | Pet Zip | Mendocino HS | Mask Guidance | Richardson Grove | Lengthy Tailspin | Young Che | Clubfoot Grizzly | History | Ed Notes | Player Piano | Byebye Bibi | Yesterday's Catch | Bolinas Past | Marco Radio | Push Mower | Press Freedom | Numbered Spot | Huckleberry Biden
ANOTHER FRONT will slowly approach the North Coast today, bringing beneficial rain to Del Norte and northern Humboldt Counties this afternoon and evening. Dry weather and northerly winds will return early to mid next week as high pressure builds offshore. Triple digit heat is expected for the interior valleys mid to late week. (NWS)
REMEMBER THAT PROPOSAL a few months ago to ask the County to use a little of the PG&E settlement money to upgrade the Senior Center/Vets Hall on the south end of town? A proposal was indeed submitted, but when the Supes reviewed the projects being considered for funding from the settlement money last week, the Boonville Senior Center was not there and Supervisor Williams said he was surprised that it wasn’t.
The proposed project would have involved converting the Senior Center, which is a County owned building, into a community resource center during an emergency or “public safety power shutoff” (PSPS) when PG&E turns Boonville’s power off for safety concerns. A backup generator with associated electrical hook-up and installation, a concrete pad, some trenching, some electrical hardware with some volunteer labor where possible was proposed at a cost of less than $20k. Everybody locally liked the idea.
Then, because it’s a county owned building, it went to the County, where… Yes, you got it, things got complicated.
Locals were told recently that the project didn’t make the list because:
Such upgrades would mean that Americans with Disability Act requirements would apply to the rest of the building.
Volunteer labor is prohibited by the government code for work on government owned buidings.
Insurance and legal issues would have to be reviewed, a slow process.
Other (mostly unspecified) renovations and improvements of the old building, possibly including roof repair/replacement, would be required; they couldn’t do just the generator, and those other renovations and improvements would have to comply with modern building codes.
And last but not least, the County is considering a larger emergency related project of some kind at the Boonville Fairgrounds next door which might overlap with the Community Resource Center upgrade proposal.
Locals have not given up, but if the project ever happens it will certainly be after the fire/power outage season this year.
UKIAH SHELTER PET OF THE WEEK
Zip is total a love bug— and boy—he’s like a wet noodle when he gets his belly scratched! Zip wants to be close to his people, which will make him a great companion for his new guardian. Zip will need a home with secure fencing and a guardian who has time to spend with him. Zip is 2 years old and 63 adorable pounds.
Visit us at mendoanimalshelter.com — to see all of our canine and feline guests, our services, programs, events, and updates regarding covid-19, as it impacts Mendocino County Animal Shelters in Ukiah and Ft. Bragg. Visit us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/mendoanimalshelter/
For information about adoptions, please call 707-467-6453.
The new guidance for masking as of June 15th has officially been released. There are some locations masks will still be required public transportation, medical facilities, congregate living, etc. Fully vaccinated individuals can go mask free except for the above locations and where required. Business can chose to ask for self-attestation or continue to require masks in their business (just like they require shoes). I think we will still see many people chose to wear masks, especially if they are unable to get vaccinated and have concerns about the virus. Be kind to one another. We don’t know anyone’s story and why they are choosing to wear a mask. No person shall be prevented from wearing a mask in any scenario. Read more below for the official announcement.
Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings (Takes Effect June 15, 2021) Note: This guidance takes effect on June 15, 2021 and will supersede all prior face coverings guidance.
The COVID-19 vaccines are effective in preventing infection, disease, and spread. Unvaccinated persons are more likely to get infected and spread the virus which is transmitted through the air and concentrates indoors.
About 15% of our population remains without the option for vaccination (children under 12 years old are not yet eligible) and risk for COVID-19 exposure and infection will remain until we reach full community immunity.
The purpose of this guidance is to align with CDC recommendations and provide information about higher risk settings where masks are required or recommended to prevent transmission to persons with higher risk of infection (e.g., unvaccinated or immunocompromised persons), to persons with prolonged, cumulative exposures (e.g., workers), or to persons whose vaccination status is unknown. When people who are not fully vaccinated wear a mask correctly, they protect others as well as themselves.
Consistent and correct mask use by people who are not fully vaccinated is especially important indoors.
In workplaces, employers are subject to the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) or in some workplaces the CalOSHA Aerosol Transmissible Diseases Standard, and should consult those regulations for additional applicable requirements.
Guidance for Individuals
Masks are not required for fully vaccinated individuals, except in the following settings where masks are required for everyone, regardless of vaccination status:
On public transit (examples: airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares) and in transportation hubs (examples: airport, bus terminal, marina, train station, seaport or other port, subway station, or any other area that provides transportation)
Indoors in K-12 schools, childcare and other youth settings.
Note: This may change as updated K-12 schools guidance is forthcoming, pending updates for K-12 operational guidance from the CDC.
Healthcare settings (including long term care facilities)
State and local correctional facilities and detention centers
Homeless shelters, emergency shelters and cooling centers
Additionally, masks are required** for unvaccinated individuals in indoor public settings and businesses (examples: retail, restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centers, meetings, state and local government offices serving the public).
For additional information, individuals should refer to CDC Recommendations for Safer Activities (see CDPH Masking Guidance Frequently Asked Questions for more information).
* * *
Guidance for Businesses, Venue Operators or Hosts
In settings where masks are required only for unvaccinated individuals, businesses, venue operators or hosts may choose to:
Provide information to all patrons, guests and attendees regarding vaccination requirements and allow vaccinated individuals to self-attest that they are in compliance prior to entry.
Implement vaccine verification to determine whether individuals are required to wear a mask.
Require all patrons to wear masks.
No person can be prevented from wearing a mask as a condition of participation in an activity or entry into a business.
Exemptions to masks requirements
The following individuals are exempt from wearing masks at all times:
Persons younger than two years old. Very young children must not wear a mask because of the risk of suffocation.
Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask. This includes persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a mask could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a mask without assistance.
Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
Persons for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.
 CDC Requirement for Face Masks on Public Transportation Conveyances and at Transportation Hubs
 CDC Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Prevention
 CDC Guidance for Operating Child Care Programs during COVID-19
 CDC Updated Healthcare Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations in Response to COVID-19 Vaccination
 CDC Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Spread in Nursing Homes
 CDC Interim Guidance on Management of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Correctional and Detention Facilities
 CDC Interim Guidance for Homeless Service Providers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
 CDC Interim Guidance for General Population Disaster Shelters During the COVID-19 Pandemic
 CDC Interim guidance to reduce the risk of introducing and transmitting SARS COV-2 in cooling centers.
OLD LIBRARIES, OFF-RAMPS & OUTLETS
by Tommy Wayne Kramer
We are in the midst of a lengthy tailspin into incompetence and mediocrity. We are unable to do anything, or at least not well.
Look around Mendocino County. See the decline. Where once local citizens were able to build roads across mountains connecting Ukiah valleys with coastal villages, today we can’t even keep the roads open and passable.
What makes this doubly difficult to understand is that today we have hordes of professionals in agencies dedicated to building roads, and they’ve all given up. The task of keeping Orr Springs Road open is just too daunting. Having a few lanes open on Highway 101 is now all we expect from CalTrans.
If someone were to propose our local transportation department build a road from anywhere to somewhere else using all the heavy machinery and newest techniques based on thousands of years of knowledge about building roads, people would laugh, none harder than employees at the transportation department and the Board of Supervisors.
In the old days they had farmers, loggers, tractors, Italian and Chinese laborers and determination. Today we have federal funding, county roads departments, CalTrans, earth moving equipment and lawyers filing lawsuits.
Go drive your Tesla over Fish Rock Road next week to see what the old-timers were able to do, then ask yourself why it’s impossible for today’s bureaucrats to fix a few potholes and paint some lanes.
It’s not just roads. The county had beautiful libraries (check out the Carnegie Library, now a real estate office at State and Clay streets, or in Willits, now an arts facility). Today we can’t even keep a library open unless we raise our taxes.
Or the courthouse. Every old photo of Ukiah court buildings that stood a hundred and more years ago shows a stately, majestic structure with towers, turrets and grand stairways.
Today, architecture has fallen to a profession of advisors to consultants of cheap box builders and the result is rectangular crates made of plywood and sheetrock. All thoughts of beauty and grandeur were tossed out decades ago.
It means our cities, from Ukiah to Ypsilanti, are mostly collections of off-ramps, outlets, strip malls, schools that look like business plazas and the same shiny skyscrapers whether you’re in San Jose, Singapore, Sao Paolo, Tokyo or Toronto.
Public art, displayed where citizens gather, has gone from grand monuments and beautiful sculptures to free-form abstract horrors welded from scavenged landfill debris and given obscure, meaningless titles. Our stately monuments are torn down and dragged through the mud by leftist mobs. In 1969, working for the Cleveland Press, I covered the destruction of Rodin’s “The Thinker” via a bomb planted by an anonymous protest gang.
Or compare a typical university campus from 100 or more years ago to any college facility built since the 1950s. Now weep. Housing has suffered a similar fate. Gracious tree-lined suburbs once encircled the nation’s big, pretty cities; many of those homes still stand unless bulldozed for public housing.
Now suburbs sweep up slopes and down valleys in a matter of weeks. They overrun landscapes with little boxes on hillsides, made of ticky-tack, all looking just the same. Yet even bland suburbs are better than what political leaders have in mind for tomorrow.
The future will include the seductive but spurious promise of free housing for everyone because, as the next slogan you’ll be asked to repeat goes, “Housing is a Right!” But the housing won’t even be ticky-tack or with a yard of one’s own.
Free housing is public housing and public housing is government housing and if you want to know what government housing looks like go check out the huge, ghastly apartment-style monstrosities churned out since the 1950s and thrown up in Detroit, Cleveland, SF, LA, and other places where fortunate citizens get to live in free barracks, along with hundreds of other families who also don’t have to pay rent.
Get in line, you lucky dog. Your rent-free unit is on the 33rd floor, elevators presently and perpetually broken.
Our cars all look alike and for all I know their parts are interchangeable. Maybe they all come off the same assembly line. The only way to tell a Toyota from a Taurus or a Hyundai from a Honda is by squinting at the nameplates.
But, you say, cars are built better today and last longer and have cool stuff like infotainment centers and eight-speed transmissions. So What? Name a product that sells millions a year and that’s been around more than a century that hasn’t been greatly improved in some way or another. Just don’t put “styling” and modern cars in the same paragraph about improvements.
Of course many things are better. You, me and the world have instant access to music, commentary and instant social media hookups that dazzle us daily. The technology is, as we are able to faultily comprehend it, magic.
The result in adding to global knowledge, of brain-boggling medical advances, our ability to probe the stars above and oceans below, is quite beyond common understanding.
Yet for all this, bedrock human principles anchored in faith, honor, wisdom, love and glory are in decline, abandoned to dusty shelves in old libraries we no longer visit.
A BEAR NAMED CLUB FOOT
by Katy Tahja
Mendocino County pioneers loved to share stories about interactions with bears. Here’s one from a little booklet called “Lore of the Coast: Fact or Fiction” published by the Mendocino County Historical Society about 50 years ago. Historian Tom Moungovan said there were two country stores in Manchester and after evening chores were finished men gathered and told tales. Here’s one of them from the early 1900s.
Just north of Manchester on the south coast going up Alder Creek the first major tributary is called Grizzly Canyon Creek. Nearby was Brush Creek which had a great swamp for about two miles upstream, an ideal place for bears and raccoons. There lived an unusually large grizzly bear who was a real pest.
Since the 1850s settlers had been bringing in cattle and this grizzly seemed to think they were just for him and he ate nothing else. The settlers would hunt the grizzly with dogs and give chase to no avail. It was assumed the bear would light out occasionally and go over the hills to Anderson Valley, but he always came back. He was a wonder at avoiding traps but his “trap wisdom” ran out one day on the Biaggi Ranch.
He got his foot stuck in a trap but managed to pull most of it out. The foot healed into a long and narrow shape which resembled a club, hence the name “Club Foot” which stuck with him the rest of his life. After more depredations the farmers, ranchers and trappers with dogs were after him. The bear retreated to a shallow pond in the middle of the swamp where he had an advantage over the dogs. It would have been suicide for a man to try to get near the center of the swamp. In darkness the bear escaped to Alder Creek and perhaps beyond.
A month later a hired hand was getting cows into a barn for milking and found a large steer with a broken neck partially eaten and a deformed foot print was found in the soil. It was definitely Club Foot’s work. Brush Creek was being drained and cleared so the bear had lost its best lair.
It was said bears like to eat sheep more than cattle but his visits to Anderson Valley found him chased away by vigilant dogs. Settlers were tired of losing stock and two men and a team of four dogs were imported from a large sheep ranch near Healdsburg to finally kill Club Foot.
The bruin wasn’t used to such focused single minded dogs and once they had his trail they didn’t let up. At bay, hiding in a clump of blue blossom where it was impossible for the men to enter, the bear waited. The hunters set fire to the thicket and the bear then came charging out. The hunters were taken by surprise but managed to fire two shots and one found its mark.
They saw the bear go over the rim of a very steep gorge and the hunters got to a vantage point where a final shot ended the career of a very fine bear. The tributary of Alder Creek has been called Grizzly Canyon Creek ever since and the old timers hoped future generations would never change this name dedicated to their really famous bear.
SHANNON RILEY is Ukiah's deputy city manager. His eminence, the city manager himself, Sage Sangiacomo, from whom we seldom hear, perhaps because he's a latter day proponent of the old sixties demonstration cry, “Chicks up front,” the theory being the cops would be less likely to club women, a theory demolished as the chicks were duly clubbed wherever they got up front, and one more impetus for the Women's Movement, dispatches Ms. Riley to 'splain a few things to Ukiah's severely put upon citizens.
THE HUGELY DISRUPTIVE re-do of a length of State Street has been underway now seemingly forever, just as the Palace Hotel, even in its abandoned decrepitude, remains Ukiah's second grandest large building, the first being the Ukiah seat of government itself, a remodeled, pre-World War Two school building replete with posh amenities for the people who've made Ukiah what it is today — a hellish, unplanned sprawl most Mendo citizens dread visiting.
OF COURSE Ukiah's civic headquarters is situated on Ukiah's Westside, where much of the city's and the county's government lives. You won't catch the homeless camping out west of State Street, one irony being that a large slice of the government-paid residents who make their homes on the Westside's leafy streets derive their livings from the dependent classes east of State.
ALL OF WHICH is preamble to the following highly annoying message from Ms. Riley on a list of annoying messages she titled, “Myth-Busting, part 6: As for the Palace Hotel and the courthouse, the City has very limited influence. The Palace is privately owned, and the City has no mechanism for purchasing and redeveloping it—certainly not with gas tax or Measure Y funds! The courthouse is a State project that the City has no role in. The State has purchased property near the trail depot and started some of the site improvements, but the project has stalled and the State has not yet allocated money for the design or construction of the facility. The City advocates for completion of the project, but that’s about all we can do. (Feel free to send a letter to the State!) — Shannon Riley, deputy city manager”
THE CITY has dithered for years as a series of windy, under-funded investors promised to get the Palace up and running again. Instead of condemning the structure and auctioning it to someone who had the real ability to rehab it, here we are forty or so years later with the Palace in limbo. (There's lots of money in Ukiah, but zero civic pride among that money. Big Chuck Mannon all by himself, could easily restore the Palace to profitability rather than fund, say, the multi-story eyesore he's erected down among the big box eyesores on Airport Blvd.)
INSTEAD, the city managed to bumble the Palace all the way into receivership from where it has recently been retrieved by the owner of the Fairfield Inn down on Airport, Jitu Ishwar. This guy seems to have the resources to get 'er done, and if he does it will be no thanks to his host city.
(A READER CLARIFIES: The man named in Justine Frederickson's recent story about the new owner of the Palace Hotel in Ukiah, Jitu Ishwar, is affiliated with the Travelodge Hotel in Ukiah. He is involved in a company named Twin Investments. Corporate records and LinkedIn also connect him to AJPJ LLC which is linked on Corporatewiki to Fairfield Inn on Airport Park Blvd in Ukiah. He is on the Ukiah Main Street Program Board.)
WHERE MS. RILEY is all the way wrong is the new county courthouse proposed a lengthy three blocks from the present, perfectly serviceable (well, maybe not perfectly) historic county courthouse where it has sat for 150 years at State and Perkins. For many millions less than the new courthouse will cost — expect a concrete, glass and steel abomination of a high rise popular these days with the legal community — the present courthouse could be restored to its 19th century beauty and, your honors, a contemporary serviceability.
(BEFORE WW II even America's mental asylums were beautiful because people understood that what things look like was crucial to civic morale and, by extension, mental health. Talmage, inside its Buddhist fencing, remains a beauty spot perfect for a college, which is what the Buddhists have done with it. Mendo could have had the whole show for a song, but Mendo being Mendo....)
THE NEW COUNTY COURTHOUSE is, as Ms. Riley says, a state matter, but if the host community for which she seems to speak spoke up and said, “We don't want a new county courthouse that serves only the Superior Court because we don't want to kill what's left of our battered town center,” the state, which in this case is the state's publicly-funded state judicial apparatus, it's likely the state would listen.
MENDO being a place without historical memory, Ms. Riley apparently doesn't know the etiology of the proposed new county courthouse, a sad story of Northcoast Democratic Party corruption that managed to first get its grasping hands on the old Northwestern Pacific Railroad, which the party squeezed for its remaining value and jobs for its old boys before raffling off what was left of it. Doug Bosco, Mitch Stogner, Dan Hauser, et al, all the way down to John McCowen and retired judge Dave Nelson in Ukiah were instrumental in arranging the proposed site for the new courthouse where the old train stop was on West Perkins.
OUT OF THE MUD of all this no new lotus of a new county courthouse will grow. I hope. Covid and our faith-based economy may have finished it off, but in the meantime, as Ms. Riley, with typical Mendo civil service arrogance, challenges us, “Feel free to send a letter to the State!”
NOT to clamber aboard the Trump Train, but it does more and more appear that China lied about the virus arising from a Wuhan wet market to conceal its true origins in a state lab. These are the people who buried an entire high speed train back in 2011 when it malfunctioned, killing forty people and injuring hundreds, because they didn't want it to get out that their vaunted new high speed technology was imperfect.
A PHILO GUY joked, “Hey! With the AVA being the only paper-paper left in The Valley, what are we going to do for fire starter?” I assured him we have enough fire starter stored on our welcoming premises to supply everyone from Yorkville to Navarro until the end of time, which may be any day now given all the givens.
ISRAEL TO SWEAR IN GOVERNMENT, ENDING NETANYAHU’S LONG RULE
Israel is set to swear in a new government on Sunday that will send Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into the opposition after a record 12 years in office and a political crisis that sparked four elections in two years.
CATCH OF THE DAY, June 12, 2021
ANGELINA CANTARONI, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
ZACHARY DORN, Hopland. DUI.
AMELIA GILRUTH, Forest Grove/Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs.
ROSALIE LUNA, Ukiah. DUI.
TASHINA TILLMAN, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
MIRA TORRECILLA, Redwood Valley. DUI, disobeying court order.
THE BOX SKETCH.
The recording of Friday night's (2021-06-04) Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show on 107.7fm KNYO-LP Fort Bragg is right here: https://tinyurl.com/KNYO-MOTA-0440
Besides all that, at https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com you'll find a fresh batch of dozens of links to not necessarily radio-useful but nonetheless worthwhile items I set aside for you while gathering the show together. Such as, for instance:
A single Simone Biles jump in slow motion. Imagine what it must feel like to be able to do that. She got married to a man who's twice as big as she is in all directions and he is also very strong and graceful; he's a famous football player. They make me think of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage together, except happy. Jessica Jones… remember when the guy asked her if she could fly and she thought about it for a moment and said, “It's more like jumping and controlled falling.” But Jessica Jones could really fly; her power was crippled by having her spirit broken by guilt over the accident that killed her parents and sister and, later, the ordeal of being mind-controlled by the Purple Man (that's not love) (in the comics he was actually purple; in the teevee show he's just David Tennant in his Scottish color).
Arkansas officer, impatient with someone hesitant to pull over in a dangerous place, deliberately flips her car, then he explains how it's all her fault because this is a normal thing he's been doing for seventeen years. Also she's pregnant. Oy.
”Come on, ladies, come on, ladies. One pound feesh.” I'm smiling so hard from this that it hurts a little just in front of my ears. That hardly ever happens.
And art. Note the footrest.
”They're called lessons because they lessen from day to day.” That's it for now. Email me your written work and I'll read it Friday night on the radio on the very next MOTA.
Marco McClean, email@example.com https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com
JULIAN ASSANGE AND THE COLLAPSE OF THE RULE OF LAW
Chris Hedges gave this talk at a rally Thursday night in New York City in support of Julian Assange.
A society that prohibits the capacity to speak in truth extinguishes the capacity to live in justice.
This why we are here tonight. Yes, all of us who know and admire Julian decry his prolonged suffering and the suffering of his family. Yes, we demand that the many wrongs and injustices that have been visited upon him be ended. Yes, we honor him up for his courage and his integrity. But the battle for Julian’s liberty has always been much more than the persecution of a publisher. It is the most important battle for press freedom of our era. And if we lose this battle, it will be devastating, not only for Julian and his family, but for us.
Tyrannies invert the rule of law. They turn the law into an instrument of injustice. They cloak their crimes in a faux legality. They use the decorum of the courts and trials, to mask their criminality. Those, such as Julian, who expose that criminality to the public are dangerous, for without the pretext of legitimacy the tyranny loses credibility and has nothing left in its arsenal but fear, coercion and violence.
The long campaign against Julian and WikiLeaks is a window into the collapse of the rule of law, the rise of what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls our system of inverted totalitarianism, a form of totalitarianism that maintains the fictions of the old capitalist democracy, including its institutions, iconography, patriotic symbols and rhetoric, but internally has surrendered total control to the dictates of global corporations.
I was in the London courtroom when Julian was being tried by Judge Vanessa Baraitser, an updated version of the Queen of Hearts in Alice-in-Wonderland demanding the sentence before pronouncing the verdict. It was judicial farce. There was no legal basis to hold Julian in prison. There was no legal basis to try him, an Australian citizen, under the U.S. Espionage Act. The CIA spied on Julian in the embassy through a Spanish company, UC Global, contracted to provide embassy security. This spying included recording the privileged conversations between Julian and his lawyers as they discussed his defense. This fact alone invalidated the trial. Julian is being held in a high security prison so the state can, as Nils Melzer, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, has testified, continue the degrading abuse and torture it hopes will lead to his psychological if not physical disintegration.
The U.S. government directed, as Craig Murray so eloquently documented, the London prosecutor James Lewis. Lewis presented these directives to Baraitser. Baraitser adopted them as her legal decision. It was judicial pantomime. Lewis and the judge insisted they were not attempting to criminalize journalists and muzzle the press while they busily set up the legal framework to criminalize journalists and muzzle the press. And that is why the court worked so hard to mask the proceedings from the public, limiting access to the courtroom to a handful of observers and making it hard and at times impossible to access the trial online. It was a tawdry show trial, not an example of the best of English jurisprudence but the Lubyanka.
Now, I know many of us here tonight would like to think of ourselves as radicals, maybe even revolutionaries. But what we are demanding on the political spectrum is in fact conservative, it is the restoration of the rule of law. It is simple and basic. It should not, in a functioning democracy, be incendiary. But living in truth in a despotic system is the supreme act of defiance. This truth terrifies those in power.
The architects of imperialism, the masters of war, the corporate-controlled legislative, judicial and executive branches of government and their obsequious courtiers in the media, are illegitimate. Say this simple truth and you are banished, as many of us have been, to the margins of the media landscape. Prove this truth, as Julian, Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond and Edward Snowden have by allowing us to peer into the inner workings of power, and you are hunted down and persecuted.
Shortly after WikiLeaks released the Iraq War Logs in October 2010, which documented numerous US war crimes—including video images of the gunning down of two Reuters journalists and 10 other unarmed civilians in the Collateral Murder video, the routine torture of Iraqi prisoners, the covering up of thousands of civilian deaths and the killing of nearly 700 civilians that had approached too closely to U.S. checkpoints—the towering civil rights attorneys Len Weinglass and my good friend Michael Ratner, who I would later accompany to meet Julian in the Ecuadoran Embassy, met with Julian in a studio apartment in Central London. Julian’s personal bank cards had been blocked. Three encrypted laptops with documents detailing US war crimes had disappeared from his luggage in route to London. Swedish police were fabricating a case against him in a move, Ratner warned, that was about extraditing Julian to the United States.
“WikiLeaks and you personally are facing a battle that is both legal and political,” Weinglass told Assange. “As we learned in the Pentagon Papers case, the US government doesn’t like the truth coming out. And it doesn’t like to be humiliated. No matter if it’s Nixon or Bush or Obama, Republican or Democrat in the White House. The US government will try to stop you from publishing its ugly secrets. And if they have to destroy you and the First Amendment and the rights of publishers with you, they are willing to do it. We believe they are going to come after WikiLeaks and you, Julian, as the publisher.”
“Come after me for what?” asked Julian.
“Espionage,” Weinglass continued. “They’re going to charge Bradley Manning with treason under the Espionage Act of 1917. We don’t think it applies to him because he’s a whistleblower, not a spy. And we don’t think it applies to you either because you are a publisher. But they are going to try to force Manning into implicating you as his collaborator.”
“Come after me for what?
That is the question.
They came after Julian not for his vices, but his virtues.
They came after Julian because he exposed the more than 15,000 unreported deaths of Iraqi civilians; because he exposed the torture and abuse of some 800 men and boys, aged between 14 and 89, at Guantánamo; because he exposed that Hillary Clinton in 2009 ordered US diplomats to spy on U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and other U.N. representatives from China, France, Russia, and the UK, spying that included obtaining DNA, iris scans, fingerprints, and personal passwords, part of the long pattern of illegal surveillance that included the eavesdropping on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in the weeks before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003; because he exposed that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the CIA orchestrated the June 2009 military coup in Honduras that overthrew the democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya, replacing it with a murderous and corrupt military regime; because he exposed that George W. Bush, Barack Obama and General David Petraeus prosecuted a war in Iraq that under post-Nuremberg laws is defined as a criminal war of aggression, a war crime, that they authorized hundreds of targeted assassinations, including those of U.S. citizens in Yemen, and that they secretly launched missile, bomb, and drone attacks on Yemen, killing scores of civilians; because he exposed that Goldman Sachs paid Hillary Clinton $657,000 to give talks, a sum so large it can only be considered a bribe, and that she privately assured corporate leaders she would do their bidding while promising the public financial regulation and reform; because he exposed the internal campaign to discredit and destroy British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn by members of his own party; because he exposed how the hacking tools used by the CIA and the National Security Agency permits the wholesale government surveillance of our televisions, computers, smartphones and anti-virus software, allowing the government to record and store our conversations, images and private text messages, even from encrypted apps.
Julian exposed the truth. He exposed it over and over and over until there was no question of the endemic illegality, corruption and mendacity that defines the global ruling elite. And for these truths they came after Julian, as they have come after all who dared rip back the veil on power. “Red Rosa now has vanished too. …” Bertolt Brecht wrote after the German socialist Rosa Luxemburg was murdered. “She told the poor what life is about, And so the rich have rubbed her out.”
We have undergone a corporate coup, where the poor and working men and women are reduced to joblessness and hunger, where war, financial speculation and internal surveillance are the only real business of the state, where even habeas corpus no longer exists, where we, as citizens, are nothing more than commodities to corporate systems of power, ones to be used, fleeced and discarded. To refuse to fight back, to reach out and help the weak, the oppressed and the suffering, to save the planet from ecocide, to decry the domestic and international crimes of the ruling class, to demand justice, to live in truth, is to bear the mark of Cain. Those in power must feel our wrath, and this means constant acts of mass civil disobedience, it means constant acts of social and political disruption, for this organized power from below is the only power that will save us and the only power that will free Julian. Politics is a game of fear. It is our moral and civic duty to make those in power very, very afraid.
The criminal ruling class has all of us locked in its death grip. It cannot be reformed. It has abolished the rule of law. It obscures and falsifies the truth. It seeks the consolidation of its obscene wealth and power. And so, to quote the Queen of Hearts, metaphorically of course, I say, “Off with their heads.”
I GREW A BEARD
by Christian Lorentzen
To cook crack you need cocaine, water, baking soda, a heat source (microwave, stove, torch, cigarette lighter) and a spoon or a jar of the right thickness. Disregard the occasional splintered jar or finger burn, and the advantages of cooking for yourself are mostly to do with customer service. You’re less likely to get ripped off or have a gun pointed at your head: powder cocaine dealers are easier to find and more reliable.
“More genteel” is the way Hunter Biden describes his decision to “eliminate one layer of drug-world repulsiveness” by switching from buying crack at homeless encampments in Los Angeles, where he had a gun pointed at his head at least once, to cooking for himself at his $400-a-night cabana at the Chateau Marmont. “Cooking crack took practice, but it wasn’t rocket science,” he writes in is new memoir, Beautiful Things. “I became absurdly good at it – guess that 172 on my LSAT counted for something.” The tension in Biden’s memoir is between the high-achieving politician’s son and the chronic alcoholic and drug addict in and out of rehab over the past two decades.
Beautiful Things has three purposes: cashing in on Biden’s celebrity; confession, contrition and expiation after his years as an addict; and reframing him as a victim of Trump’s smears (or, as he puts it, “a president’s unhinged fury”). In 2019, he writes, “‘Where’s Hunter?’ replaced ‘Lock her up!’” as Trump’s “go-to hype line” at his campaign rallies. The charges against Trump in his first impeachment stemmed from his request that the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, investigate whether Joe Biden had interfered on behalf of the gas company Burisma (when Joe Biden was vice president and Hunter was a member of Burisma’s board), while the Trump administration withheld $391 million of military aid to Ukraine that had been mandated by Congress. Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives in December 2019 but acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate two months later. Within weeks Biden had a lock on the Democratic nomination. A laptop containing Hunter Biden’s texts, emails, photos and videos surfaced at a computer repair shop in Delaware the month before last year’s election. Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani carped about the “Biden crime family” to anyone who would listen (a diminished roster of mainstream news outlets and a new crop of obscure news channels and fly-by-night podcasts). A sideshow about the role of tech giants in filtering online discourse emerged after Twitter suspended the New York Post’s account on the grounds that it was spreading possible Russian disinformation by reporting on the laptop’s contents. As an October surprise, it was insufficient to tilt the election to Trump.
On these and other political matters, Beautiful Things is defensive, unenlightening and mostly dull. There is the strut of the résumé (an executive job at a Delaware financial firm out of law school; board membership of Amtrak and board chairmanship of the World Food Program USA, appointed to the first by George W. Bush and the second by Obama; counsel for the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner; founder of various multinational firms; lobbyist etc) and a half-defense of the charge of nepotism: “There’s no question that my last name has opened doors, but my qualifications and accomplishments speak for themselves.” The one professional controversy Biden addresses at length is his place on the board of Burisma. In Biden’s account – “most remarkable for its epic banality,” as he puts it, though “epic” is a bit much – Burisma’s owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, was looking for directors who could give the company a sheen of Western best practice in corporate governance so he could attract Western investment and show that the company wouldn’t be “hijacked by Russia.” The appearance of possible corruption seems to have been nearly as good as actual corruption, for which no evidence – in the form of Joe Biden intervening on Burisma’s behalf – has been found. (Hunter Biden’s “tax affairs” remain under investigation after a money laundering probe came up dry.)
Biden calls his presence on the Burisma board “an unmistakable fuck-you to Putin.” Other directors included Aleksander Kwaśniewski, a former president of Poland; Joseph Cofer Black, who ran counterterrorism for the CIA under Bush; and Devon Archer, Biden’s longtime business partner, who brokered their directorships. Zlochevsky – at six feet two and 250 pounds, “pure mass wrapped in tailored suits and gentlemanly manners,” with “a shaved head, a booming laugh, and essentially no neck” – was Ukraine’s former minister of ecology and natural resources. At meetings he was not a big conversationalist or storyteller. He was “a listener.” And he had a heart: “When he was ecology minister, Zlochevsky championed the end to the longstanding practice in Ukraine of chaining bears held in captivity in open pits. It was a politically unpopular stance, but he persevered and won reforms.” When he heard that Biden’s nephew, who’d just lost his father to brain cancer, loved to fish, he moved a board meeting to a fishing lodge in northern Norway, and “we all had an enormous amount of fun together, up there at the top of the world. I appreciated his thoughtfulness.” Biden was reportedly paid $80,000 a month, and sat on the board for five years.
At first the money allowed him to spend more time with his brother, Beau, during the terminal stage of his illness. Beau had suffered what was diagnosed as a stroke in 2010, a year after returning from a deployment in Iraq. Three years later he had a grand mal seizure during a vacation with his brother and their families on Lake Michigan. An MRI revealed what looked like a brain tumor. They flew to Philadelphia, where the diagnosis was confirmed, then to Houston, where he had brain surgery. There would be two more surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. “Glioblastoma multiform is a mean, relentless horror,” Biden writes, “the most aggressive form of cancer – a death sentence.” The last-ditch effort, “a true Hail Mary,” was the injection of an artificial virus into his brain. Hunter sat by Beau’s hospital bed, they watched Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Beau, who had stepped down as Delaware’s attorney general, talked about running for governor in 2016. He died on the evening of May 30, 2015. His last words were “beautiful, beautiful,” which is at least as plausible as Steve Jobs’s last word being “Wow!” At the funeral Obama delivered a speech, Chris Martin of Coldplay sang “Til Kingdom Come,” and Beau and Hunter’s sister, Ashley, quoted from Beau’s “theme song,” the New Radicals’ “You Get What You Give.” Hunter delivered his own eulogy:
“I retold the story about Beau holding my hand when we were scared kids in the hospital room, and how mine was hardly the only hand he held over the years in someone’s time of great need. Survivors of abuse, parents of fallen soldiers, victims of violent crime… he held them all.
‘There are thousands of people telling those stories right now,’ I said. Telling the same story – about when Beau Biden held their hand. ‘He was clarity,’ I continued, speaking as much to myself as to those inside the church. ‘A clarity you can step into. He was the clarity of Lake Skaneateles at sunrise. A clarity you could float in. A clarity that was contagious. He was that clarity not just for his family but for everyone who called him friend. ‘My only claim on my brother,’ I then told everyone ever touched by Beau, ‘is that he held my hand first’.”
“He was clarity” – it’s difficult to tell what that means, except in contrast to Hunter’s muddled careerism and self-destructive hedonism. The portrait of Beau Biden that emerges from this book is that of a man who seems, from a young age, determined to become a more perfect version of his father, i.e., a more perfect politician. “My father believed Beau could one day be president and that he’d get there with my help,” Hunter writes. Bonded since the death of their mother and baby sister in a car accident in 1972, after which they woke up next to each other in the hospital, Beau and Hunter were Irish twins, a year apart at school. Many of the boys’ earliest memories were of palling around with senators like Daniel Inouye and Jesse Helms. They mowed lawns together and worked at a cold-storage warehouse, where Beau managed the deliveries and Hunter unloaded trucks. At high school Beau was called “the sheriff” because he kept people in line in a friendly way, especially if they were drinking too much, and drove everyone home safely. He was captain of the tennis team and class president. He was handsome, had a boisterous and occasionally bawdy sense of humor (Hunter gives no evidence of this, but Obama also testified to it in his eulogy), and liked the Grateful Dead and REM. He once confessed a wish to be a singer-songwriter. The boys would cruise around northern Delaware in the green 1972 Caprice Classic convertible their father bought them. Beau’s one youthful flaw was a lack of punctuality. Like his father, he was a teetotaler, except for a bit of social drinking in his twenties.
Hunter was busted for possession of cocaine on the Jersey shore in June 1988. The previous year his father had dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary after he was accused of plagiarizing one of Neil Kinnock’s speeches and a paper he’d written at law school. He had then been put through the media wringer as head of the Senate judiciary committee during Robert Bork’s failed nomination to the Supreme Court. In February 1988 he had a brain aneurysm, then a pulmonary embolism, and months later a second aneurysm. Beau was in his first year at the University of Pennsylvania, and it had been a lonely time for Hunter. The arrest shortly after his high school graduation was expunged from his record after six months of probation. As punishment his father got him a job on a construction site behind the family home – “the worst job I ever had.” The twelve-hour days were gruelling and one day a backhoe operator dumped a bucket full of mud on his head.
As an undergraduate at Georgetown, Hunter “drank, but usually not more than everybody else.” He took coke only a few times. It was after graduation, during a year with a Jesuit volunteer group in Portland, Oregon, that he found himself:
“Living three thousand miles from where I grew up, I almost felt like I had escaped the person everyone back there expected me to be. I was more confident, felt closer to my authentic self. I grew a beard, wore a leather jacket, rode the bus. I’d sit in Powell’s Books with enough money for an endless cup of coffee, then go to Nobby’s and drink nickel draft beers.”
As a flaneur at the café he “read everyone, from John Fante to Aldous Huxley to Lao-tzu. My favorite novel at the time was Charles Bukowski’s Post Office, about a down-and-out barfly – a bleak omen, in retrospect, of where my life would one day land.” (The epigraph of Beautiful Things is a few lines from Bukowski’s poem “Nirvana.”) It was in Portland that he met his first wife, Kathleen. Hunter got into law school at Georgetown, Duke and Syracuse. He also applied and was accepted on Syracuse’s creative writing MFA program. “I considered getting a joint MFA-law degree,” he writes, but after Kathleen became pregnant and they married, “all of that sounded a little silly. Studying fiction at Syracuse was a dream that would not lend itself to supporting a family.” He went to Georgetown, then applied to transfer to Yale “and included with my application a poem I wrote – something everyone discouraged. Yale’s acceptance letter noted that my success and dedication during my first year of law school at Georgetown more than qualified me, but that my poem was unlike anything they’d ever received and earned me my spot there” (a polite note to send to the eccentric son of the Senate Judiciary Committee chair who’d sunk the Supreme Court nomination of a faculty member, whether or not it was true). Here we can imagine Hunter’s road not taken: publishing books of verse and perhaps novels, guest editing issues of Ploughshares, sitting on panels about the intersection of literature, law and politics at the AWP Conference. It was what Beau wanted: he “was disappointed I didn’t take the leap and pursue an MFA.” Beautiful Things isn’t the book the young brothers thought Hunter would write.
Instead, saddled with $160,000 in student loans, Hunter shuffled between Wilmington and Washington, working as a banker, lawyer, lobbyist and founder of many firms. He and Kathleen raised three daughters and put them through private schools. They had two cars and eventually a $1 million mortgage. Hunter became a functional alcoholic. He went to rehab for the first time in 2003 at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Center in Antigua: “There are no daily massages or trips to the market. There are no phones or computers. Everybody has a roommate, makes his own bed, does his own laundry, helps with chores.” When he returned to Washington Beau took him to AA meetings.
Beau became Delaware’s attorney general in 2006, refusing his father’s open Senate seat when Joe became vice president in 2008. He was too busy doing reserve duty in Iraq and putting child molesters behind bars. He wanted to be elected governor on his own merits one day. Hunter fell off the wagon in 2010 and it was back to Antigua. After Beau’s death in 2015, Hunter and Kathleen celebrated their wedding anniversary by walking a mile together for every year they’d been married (22). In a session with a couples’ counsellor Hunter said it had been cathartic. “Cathartic? Who are you kidding?” she said, “You can say that you’re sorry for the rest of your life and it wouldn’t matter. I’m never going to forgive you.” He bought a bottle of vodka after the session and was soon kicked out of the family home.
Here the narrative of Beautiful Things becomes a bit choppy, between vodka binges, sobered up foreign missions, and stints in rehab. Hunter’s slip into “next-level binging” occurred in 2016 in Monte Carlo, where he’d flown for a Burisma meeting and appeared on a global economics panel. He shocked the crowd by asserting that Leave was a real possibility in the Brexit referendum. That night at a club, somebody offered him coke and he took it. He confessed the slip to his counsellors in Washington and they demanded he take a drug test. He balked, fearing it might be used against him in the impending divorce proceedings. That night he scored crack from a woman called Bicycles, aka Rhea, a homeless middle-aged black woman he’d known since his Georgetown days, when she’d witnessed him being scammed by someone who promised to take his money and bring him the “hard,” offering a shoe as collateral. That night Bicycles sold him what she had. Two decades later she scored him $100 worth. Both times he put the rocks in a cigarette, an ineffective way to get high. The next day he returned and she provided him with crack, a pipe and a screen. This was his first “bell ringer”:
“The sensation is one of utter, almost otherworldly well-being. You are at once energetic, focused and calm. Blood rushes to every extremity; your skin ripples with what feels like bumblebees. Eyes get jangly yet stay alert. Eardrums compress to the point that every sound pours through with such intensity – like a shot through a rifle barrel – that you think you’re having auditory hallucinations. You’re actually just hearing with hypersensitivity – you’re a field dog. You pick up the merest peep from a block away. I chased that high, on and off, for the next three years.”
So begins the most interesting part of Beautiful Things, four chapters mostly free of Biden family platitudes, which are replaced by druggie clichés (“Crack takes you into the darkest recesses of your soul”) and the addict’s therapeutic jargon (“What I just wrote can trigger”). Bicycles moved in with Hunter, like a deranged, crack-addled version of The Odd Couple: she was the neatnik, he the slob. He details her struggles: seven children, five of them estranged and one on death row; years spent living in motels where she would sneak in posing as a cleaning lady; bursitis and peripheral neuropathy induced by the numbing agent lidocaine. She was his protector and procurer. He funded the party, which was mostly the pair of them sitting on the couch, watching television and smoking. He was still travelling for business and limited his usage to one day out of three. Their worst fight happened when Rhea cut one of his belts in half to use it herself. She told him always to recook his drugs when he got them from a stranger, to burn off additives; never to put the stem in his pocket because it might break or “fall out of your pants while you’re ordering at Popeyes.” She explained what was happening to him when he lost his keys, couldn’t pack for a trip, or couldn’t stop staring at the floor looking for crumbs. “I loved Rhea as much as I’ve ever loved a friend,” he writes. “She’s the only person from that period of my life I actively maintain good memories of.” He speaks of wanting one day to “do what I can to get her in a position where she wants to be saved.”
The same doesn’t hold for the rest of the characters Huckleberry Biden meets on his journey. In Nashville there’s the guy at the gas station who doesn’t rip him off with baking soda. In LA there’s Curtis, a dealer he meets when he’s scrolling escort ads looking not for sex but offers to “party”; Honda, Curtis’s car thief sidekick; and Baby Down, a Samoan affiliated with the gangster rappers Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E.(one of their hits is “Beautiful Thang”), who maintain a monopoly on the doorman business at LA strip clubs. Baby Down helped Hunter get clean enough to drive to a clinic in Sedona, Arizona, which he finally reached after relapsing and driving his car off the freeway. His stay was interrupted by a visit from the police, who’d been alerted by the rental car company when drug paraphernalia was found in Hunter’s car. No charges were pressed, and the head of the clinic took the rest of Hunter’s gear and buried it in the desert. The secret service had also been notified, and Joe Biden sent his daughter-in-law Hallie, Beau’s widow, to fetch Hunter after a couple of weeks of recovery in the desert. So began their affair, “built on need, hope, frailty, and doom,” which fizzled shortly after a tabloid scandal. Kathleen found texts between them that popped up on an iPad in her possession. (Hunter does not seem like an expert in cybersecurity generally.) These went into her divorce papers, which were filed publicly and were seen by the New York Post. Hunter told the press that he and Hallie were “incredibly lucky to have found the love and support we have for each other in such a difficult time,” and at his urging his father affirmed, “We are all lucky.” The luck did not last. “I was madly trying to hold on to a slice of my brother, and I think Hallie was doing the same.” They tried living together for a couple of stints, punctuated by the usual cycle of relapsing and sobering up. The details he provides are vague. It didn’t work. How could it have?
Hunter went back to LA, drove through the hills and canyons and wrote letters to his dead brother about the beauty of the West, and “used my superpower – finding crack anytime, anywhere.” The lingo of meritocracy and comic book heroes is always at the ready when Hunter is scoring or cooking drugs. Proximity to a crack haunt sets off his “spidey sense”; becoming an expert addict is like earning a graduate degree. The language is perhaps an antidote to the incessant slogans of the war on drugs that were broadcast during our youth: Nancy Reagan telling us “Just say no.” It was a campaign in which Joe Biden was an architect and collaborator. The months Hunter spent partying at the Chateau Marmont and then, after he was kicked out, in a succession of lesser boutique hotels, are recounted in a series of boasts that his exploits exceeded those of Jim Morrison and Hunter Thompson, and admissions that his party friends, all of whom he renounces, were ripping him off, stealing his cash and credit cards before moving on to the next rich mark. This isn’t the whole story, but it’s more than you’d expect a president’s son to tell. There are grimmer interludes off the highway in Connecticut, in between rehab in Massachusetts and an attempted family intervention in Wilmington.
Hunter is finally saved by a blonde South African divorcée called Melissa Cohen. On meeting her, he speaks first: “You have the exact same eyes as my brother.” And then: “I know this probably isn’t a good way to start a first date, but I’m in love with you.” They were married six days later. She hired a doctor to come to her apartment and hook him up to an IV to help him detox.
Hunter now paints and lives in LA. He is under investigation by the IRS. The NRA has cited his possession of a firearm during his affair with Hallie, a detail revealed in documents from the laptop, as evidence that he lied about his addiction on his application for a gun license – a felony. In March last year Biden settled a paternity suit with Lunden Alexis Roberts, a stripper he knew in Washington; the episode goes unmentioned, and neither the president nor his son have met the child. There is a lot about addiction and recovery in Beautiful Things, but nothing about the ways American drug laws might be reformed to protect users and reduce violence, nothing about the accidental overdoses caused by cocaine and heroin tainted with fentanyl, a problem that might be ameliorated by legalisation and regulation. It’s now legal to smoke marijuana on the streets of New York City.
Hunter and Melissa are in California living happily ever after.
(Courtesy, London Review of Books)