RECOMMENDED READING: “A Colossal Wreck: A Road Trip Through Political Scandal, Corruption and American Culture” by Alexander Cockburn.
Cockburn, a frequent visitor to Boonville, was the last of the political writers who was also a very good writer, much better than Christopher Hitchens to whom he was often compared and, unlike Hitchens, a true enemy of empire to the end. There aren't many writers I go out of my way to read. (None, at the moment.) Today, it's all term-paper prose. Cockburn often complained to me about what bad writers many of his CounterPunch contributers were, and how much time he had to spend doing basic editing of their stuff. Cockburn was always a writer I'd read the instant I got it, a writer I always looked forward to. His prose was alive. He was alive, what used to be called an “all-outer.” He was robbed of another decade or so, but in the seven he lived he probably packed in more than ten people. Cockburn combined information with a lively and even elegant prose. And not just on politics; he was lively and interesting on a whole range of subjects. What you won't read in all the reviews of this book is how Cockburn, the last ten years or so of his life, was non-personed by much of the left, especially the lock-step sectors at places like KPFA. The Nation cut him back as it went all the way over to a spine-free Clinton-Obama-ism. And so on, as left media disappeared faster than the left itself. He was often scathing about the personalities of the talk show left, the people who've become rich “speaking truth to power,” in the fatuous phrase of the self-aggrandizing. Cockburn was the real thing, a lion of opposition all his days. The would-be little Lenins hated him, and he mopped the floor with mainstream media figures on those occasions he was permitted to go head-to-head with one of them. He was intransigent, never gave one inch all his days. This book conveys him perfectly.
“THE DREARIEST place on any campus is the J-school, and whenever any young person comes to me to write a testimonial for them to get into journalism school I rail bitterly at their decision, though I concede that these days a diploma from one of these feedlots for mediocrity is pretty much mandatory for anyone who wants to get into mainstream journalism.” (— Cockburn)
“PEOPLE THOUGHT Candlestick and I were soul mates. We were both big and ugly. We were both windy. And they could never figure out how to get rid of either one of us.” — Lon Simmons
MOVE OVER Mendocino National Forest. The Monterey County Sheriff's Office says it uprooted more than 10,000 marijuana plants last week from the Los Padres National Forest. The raid teams also confiscated 960 pounds of processed dope and removed more than 3,000 pounds of trash from the gro sites.
A READER WRITES: Caltrans, Caltrans, Caltrans… Damn near disaster Friday on 101. (Remember the Rosewarne Concretions? Well, we never found out what they are because Caltrans doesn't have the bucks to do the study. Their priority is "safety"; they'd need to get a grant or something to do science for science's sake.)
The Highway 101 freeway is four lanes going past my residence. There is no turn lane for folks heading north and needing to turn into our driveway. One diamond caution sign, set before you are in sight of the turn, is the only warning as one zips around the big bend in the road at Hole in the Wall between Laytonville and Leggett. Accidents have happened here before. Caltrans said we need to provide them with five dead bodies before they'll put in a turn lane.
On Friday, July 19, they almost got their wish, and then some. It started, for me, with a loud car crash of type “BAM!” “Too close! Too close!" — was my first thought as I got up and opened the door to look out and see what had happened. Three cars were stopped out front: two whites and a red. The red one was dead in the middle of the two northbound lanes. The other two seemed to be parked neatly on the southbound side; one was one of my neighbor’s, the other the mail carrier’s. I grabbed my cellphone and started scurrying across the field toward the scene. My thoughts were in the “Holy Shit!” zone. If I don't go to the right, where I can flag down oncoming traffic as it comes flying around a blind curve at at least 65 mph straight for the dead red car, something really bad will happen really soon. But, the accident and the people, who might need help, are to the left. I am momentarily torn, split the difference and just go straight. Coming into range, I yell at my neighbor, “ARE YOU ALL RIGHT?” She responds, “Yes!” Relieved, I commit to going to the right, across the field, across the highway, take up my post and start frantically flapping my arms at oncoming traffic. A few cars have already just missed hitting the red car. After a while, a Caltrans pickup truck with a very nice lady driver happened by and stopped to help. She didn't know where to go either: stay to help flag or go on to the site to check for victims. I told her I knew my friend was ok, and I had seen someone get out of the red car. Having already called the accident in, she chose to turn on the truck's blinking orange bar lights, put on her official bright Caltrans vest, and use her official “SLOW” hand sign to flag the oncoming traffic. (Which was really great because until then, the only obstacle to disaster was a toothless old lady with a bad haircut in baggy paint stained shorts, a baggy paint stained t-shirt and dusty cowboy boots with desperately flailing arms —wtf.) At least five semis and 50 cars passed before the road was cleared of the red car. My worst moment came when two semis in the slow lane and three cars passing them in the fast lane were coming full tilt around the bend. My thought, “No way they're all gonna be able stop — so very little time to react.” I held my breath and flapped for all I was worth — behind me the red car in the middle of the road, all the cars and people that had pulled over to help: sitting ducks. So little time for the oncoming drivers to take it all in and react. Flap flap flap flap flap. “We could have ourselves an LA style pile-up: right here, right in the middle of nowhere, right now.” Flush with bad thoughts, I was afraid to turn my head and watch. Somehow, with miraculously perfect timing of the gaps in the southbound flow of traffic, the whole cluster made it around and through everything and each other. Disaster averted. After a very looooong 15 minutes, the red car got its ass off the road, imminent catastrophe was off the table. The Caltrans lady and I took a breath. I thanked her for stopping. She got back in her truck and took off. Turns out that the inattentive lady in the red car, at first, though not injured, had just not gotten out of her car. People on the curb screamed and screamed at her, finally got through and she got herself out — only to take up a post in front of the front of her car (!!!), guarding it or something (????), screaming back at the sideline folks. (!!!) Eventually, to the relief of everybody, she detached from her car and walked herself off the damn freeway. Another neighbor arrived on the scene and courageously volunteered to risk his life to help push the car off the highway. Everybody was stunned when the lady responded that she could drive it off (!!!!) which she then did. The red car had clipped the left turning white car just like the take-out move cop cars use against bad guys' cars. The force of the impact drove the white car straight toward Mail Carrier Lady (who was innocently putting mail into our mailboxes at the time). Mail Carrier Lady barely had time to throw up her arms and scream, “STOP!” at the white car as it threw itself at her life. Fortunately, it missed. It took around 20 minutes for CHP to arrive on scene. Caltrans needs five bodies? They could have had 20. BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM. Just like that. — Still shaking it off. — LB, Leggett
DEPT. OF FRIVOLOUS lawsuits: A Mississippi-based federal judge threw out a case that claimed Woody Allen's film, Midnight in Paris, stole a line from William Faulkner. The line? “The past is never dead. It's not even past.” The alleged theft read: “The past is not dead. Actually, it's not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner. And he was right. I met him too. I ran into him at a dinner party.” Faulkner's literary estate brought the case.
FAULKNER WAS WRONG. Here in Mendocino County history starts out all over again, retooling personalities as it goes.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: “For relative newcomers to SF, perhaps a bit of background would help. The Tenderloin district (as well as the 6th Street area) has for umpteen decades been the festering unhealed sore on the body politic. Endless fleabag hotels are still called home by thousands of prostitutes, heroin and crack addicts, cons on parole, murderers, rapists, porn ‘stars’ and their pimps, and the most desperate of the homeless. A certain landlord owns most of these bedbug ridden rejects from Scorcese's ‘Gangs of New York.’ These palaces of human flotsam are tolerated by a so-called ‘liberal’ city too afraid and politically correct to tackle the job of obliterating these slums of crime that poison an otherwise decent place — a top destination for tourists from around the globe. Scrap the pawnshops and the liquor stores, the $5 j.o. theatres and the brisk business in illegal handgun sales and there might be hope. People get killed in that un-neighborly neighborhood constantly. Of course, in SF, some artistic types will swear that it's all really just a normal, albeit run down, sentimental slice of San Francisciana, a historical district ‘worth preserving.’ Hahahaha. It's always been this way in the Tenderloin. The City has been torn between its image as the land of The Summer of Love and its rep as the sleaze capital of Cali for quite some time.” (SF Chron online comment)
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Wherever there is great property there is great inequality. For one very rich man there must be at least five hundred poor, and the affluence of the few supposes the indigence of the many. The affluence of the rich excites the indignation of the poor, who are often both driven by want, and prompted by envy, to invade his possessions. It is only under the shelter of the civil magistrate that the owner of that valuable property, which is acquired by the labor of many years, or perhaps of many successive generations, can sleep a single night in security. He is at all times surrounded by unknown enemies, whom, though he never provoked, he can never appease, and from whose injustice he can be protected only by the powerful arm of the civil magistrate continually held up to chastise it. The acquisition of valuable and extensive property, therefore, necessarily requires the establishment of civil government. Where there is no property, or at least none that exceeds the value of two or three days’ labor, civil government is not so necessary.” —Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Book V, Chapter 1.
FEDERAL REPORTS CONFIRM DELTA TUNNEL PLAN NOT BASED ON SOUND SCIENCE
by Dan Bacher
In March, California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird claimed that the controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDC) to build two giant peripheral tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is driven by "science."
“At the beginning of the Brown administration, we made a long-term commitment to let science drive the Bay Delta Conservation Plan,” said Laird, who presided over record fish kills and water exports at the South Delta pumping facilities in 2011 and the completion of the privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create questionable “marine protected areas."
"Science has and will continue to drive a holistic resolution securing our water supply and substantially restoring the Delta’s lost habitat," Laird gushed.
However, on July 18, scientists from federal lead agencies for the BDCP EIR/EIS - the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service - exposed the hollowness of Laird's claims that the BDCP is based on "science."
They provided the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the environmental consultants with 44 pages of comments highly critical of the BDCP Consultant Second Administrative Draft EIR/EISDraft, released on May 10. The agencies found, among other things, that the draft environmental documents were “biased,” “insufficient," "confusing," "very subjective" and "vague." (http://baydeltaconservationplan.com/Libraries/Dynamic_Document_Library/Federal_Agency_Comments_on_Consultant_Administrative_Draft_EIR-EIS_7-18-13.sflb.ashx)
The National Marine Fisheries Service said the environmental draft is "currently insufficient" and "will need to be revised." The agency also criticized some sections of the document for arriving at "seemingly illogical conclusions."
The Bureau of Reclamation criticized the language and content of the draft for "advocating for the project." They also said the "identification of adverse and beneficial impacts is very subjective and appears to be based on a misreading of NEPA regulations."
In addition, "The document is vague about the relationship between the various agency actions that compose or relate to the BDCP, including how these actions will be sequenced and the time/manner of environmental analysis for each," Reclamation stated.
After their staff reviewed the documents, six Members of Congress from Northern California, including Representatives Doris Matsui, George Miller, Mike Thompson, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi and Jared Huffman, called on the Brown Administration to withdraw and fully revise the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the tunnels in light of the draft documents being found “biased” and “insufficient” by federal scientists.
“The federal agency comments on the BDCP’s draft environmental documents continue to show not only that the project doesn’t solve the water problems that face our state, but that the BDCP as written is truly flawed," stated Rep. Doris Matsui (CA-6). "Until we have a process that includes all stakeholders and is based on sound science, we are wasting precious time and taxpayer money. This is time and money that we do not have. In the meantime, the environment of the Delta continues to decline and our state’s water problems continue to grow. We must get on track with a process that will produce a viable solution for California’s future.”
Rep. George Miller (CA-11) said, “The Governor’s administration told us time and again that their process would be governed by unbiased, sound science. But these federal reports confirm the opposite. As we suspected, this process has been rushed, biased, and excludes viable alternatives at the behest of big irrigators and agencies that stand to gain huge profits from their increased access to northern water. To proceed any further without major revisions that take into account the concerns of all stakeholders, not just those with political and financial influence, would be shortsighted, unproductive, and ultimately a failure.”
“These reports confirm what we’ve been saying all along – this proposed BDCP is not a workable solution to California’s water challenges," said Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-5) "It’s rushed, flawed, hurts wildlife and puts the interests of South-of-Delta water contractors ahead of North-of-Delta farmers, fishers and small business owners. Until we have a plan that is transparent, based on sound science and developed with all stake-holders at the table, then any process that moves us closer to building these tunnels will recklessly risk billions of California tax dollars and thousands of jobs.”
"We have said from day one that any proposal related to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta must be based on sound science and an accurate cost-benefit analysis," said Jerry McNerney (CA-09). "The recently-released reports clearly show that Governor Brown's misguided plan for the Delta is based on neither. To continue to move forward without taking into consideration the concerns of all stakeholders, the countless jobs that could be lost, and the billions of taxpayer dollars at stake is a clear disservice to the people of California. I will continue to fight against any plan that would divert more water from the Delta, and to stand up for the families, farmers and small business owners who rely upon a healthy Delta for their livelihoods."
“The peripheral tunnel plan is incredibly destructive, and because it does not add one drop to our water supply, incredibly unproductive," said Rep. John Garamendi (CA-3). "The current plan concludes that massive water diversions south of the Delta are needed and then twists arguments to meet that conclusion. Instead, we need a scientific process, freed from the blinders of bias, to meet the legally mandated co-equal goals of ecological conservation and reliability of water supply – both of which are essential to the state’s economy. As an alternative to the current BDCP, I have proposed a framework that would expand our water supply and protect the Delta through greater water conservation, recycling, and storage, levee improvements, and the protection of existing water rights. We need a water system that meets the needs of all Californians.”
"These reports are just the latest in a series of wake up calls showing that the BDCP is headed in a dangerous direction," commented Rep. Jared Huffman (CA-02). "We need a plan for the Bay-Delta that is based on science and follows the law, and it looks to me—and clearly, to many others—like the BDCP continues to fall short.”
Delta residents, fishermen, Indian Tribes, family farmers and a growing number of elected officials oppose the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels because the $54.1 billion project will hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species. The project would also, under the guise of "habitat restoration," take large areas of Delta farmland, some of the most fertile on the planet, out of production in order to deliver massive amounts of water to irrigate toxic, drainage-impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
The peripheral tunnels also threaten salmon and steelhead restoration on the Trinity River, the Klamath's largest tributary. The Trinity, whose water is diverted to the Sacramento River via a tunnel to Whiskeytown Reservoir, is the only out of basin water supply for the federal Central Valley Project.
A PORTRAIT OF THE LEAKER AS A YOUNG MAN
By Norman Solomon
Why have Edward Snowden's actions resonated so powerfully for so many people?
The huge political impacts of the leaked NSA documents account for just part of the explanation. Snowden’s choice was ultimately personal. He decided to take big risks on behalf of big truths; he showed how easy and hazardous such a step can be. He blew the whistle not only on the NSA’s Big Brother surveillance but also on the fear, constantly in our midst, that routinely induces conformity.
Like Bradley Manning and other whistleblowers before him, Snowden has massively undermined the standard rationales for obedience to illegitimate authority. Few of us may be in a position to have such enormous impacts by opting for courage over fear and truth over secrecy—but we know that we could be doing more, taking more risks for good reasons—if only we were willing, if only fear of reprisals and other consequences didn’t clear the way for the bandwagon of the military-industrial-surveillance state.
Near the end of Franz Kafka’s *The Trial*, the man in a parable spends many years sitting outside an open door till, near death, after becoming too weak to possibly enter, he’s told by the doorkeeper: “Nobody else could have got in this way, as this entrance was meant only for you. Now I'll go and close it."
That’s what Martin Luther King Jr. was driving at when he said, in his first high-risk speech denouncing the Vietnam War: “In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity.”
Edward Snowden was not too late. He refused to allow opportunity to be lost. He walked through the entrance meant only for him.
When people say “I am Bradley Manning,” or “I am Edward Snowden,” it can be more than an expression of solidarity. It can also be a statement of aspiration—to take ideals for democracy more seriously and to act on them with more courage.
The artist Robert Shetterly has combined his compelling new portrait of Edward Snowden <http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/07/18-15> with words from Snowden that are at the heart of what’s at stake: “The public needs to know the kinds of things a government does in its name, or the ‘consent of the governed’ is meaningless. . . The consent of the governed is not consent if it is not informed.” Like the painting of Snowden, the quote conveys a deep mix of idealism, vulnerability and determination.
Edward Snowden has taken idealism seriously enough to risk the rest of his life, a choice that is to his eternal credit and to the world’s vast benefit. His decision to resist any and all cynicism is gripping and unsettling. It tells us, personally and politically, to raise our standards, lift our eyes and go higher into our better possibilities.
(Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org <http://rootsaction.org/> and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy<http://www.accuracy.org/>. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters With America's Warfare State.")
A MEETING IN A PART
In a dream I meet
my dead friend. He has,
I know, gone long and far,
and yet he is the same
for the dead are changeless.
They grow no older.
It is I who have changed,
grown strange to what I was.
Yet I, the changed one,
ask: “How you been?”
He grins and looks at me.
“I been eating peaches
off some mighty fine trees.”
— Wendell Berry