EIGHT MORE BUMPY YEARS
Almost of a year ago, I wrote an editorial for the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat in which I called on Barack Obama to be the hero the country so sorely needed (“We Need a Hero,” SRPD, 1/18/09). I pointed back in time to the flush of hope that greeted Bill Clinton’s election in 1992, hope that was slowly strangulated over eight bumpy years. Would Obama’s tenure follow a similar trajectory?
So far, the trajectory is clear and it is not good. Obama’s first year, and particularly the current health care debacle, has served only to amplify the fact that the government of our country has been wrested out of the people’s hands. It is government, as Ralph Nader pointed out over a decade ago, “of the Exxons, by the General Motors, and for the DuPonts.” Meanwhile, the corporations slyly deflect anger onto the government for the dysfunctional society that has resulted.
This is a society in which the gap between rich and poor grows ever wider and the working class forks it over for the transgressions of the über-class. It’s a society in which health care is considered a privilege, tens of millions of homes are “under water,” millions of well-paying industrial jobs have been outsourced and both public and private debt have spun out of control. It’s a society that condones perpetual war in service to a vast armaments industry hidden from a distracted public. As Michael Lerner points out, it’s a society that “leaves people hungry not only for life’s necessities, but for ethical and spiritual fulfillment as well.”
The failure to reach a meaningful agreement in Copenhagen, whether blamed on the US or China, underscores the seriousness of our predicament as a nation and as a species. The final score showed that the US couldn’t “get an agreement done” and that demonstrated, more than anything, that we are no longer the lone superpower.
The most horrible manifestations of the current moral, ethical and legal vacuum — worse even than the bankster hijacking — are the nearly decade-old wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These wars demonstrate with crystal clarity that very little remains of the principles upon which this country was theoretically founded. We are reduced to fighting wars that, as even Alan Greenspan acknowledged, can only be accurately described as “resource grabs”.
As journalist Pepe Escobar wrote recently in Asia Times regarding the AfPak war, “Once again, since the late 1990s, it all comes back to TAPI — the Turkmenistan/Afghanistan/Pakistan/India gas pipeline, the key reason Afghanistan (as an energy transit corridor) is of any strategic importance to the US, apart from being deployed as an aircraft carrier stationed right at the borders of geopolitical competitors China and Russia."
Barack Obama understands this. He also knows that beneath the ground in Afghanistan is a rich store of uranium, tungsten, molybdenum and rare earths (used for everything from TVs to superconductors to Priuses). And the corporations that supply the missiles, the surveillance equipment, the helicopters and the fighter jets know that Obama understands this. Why else would they have made him the most heavily funded presidential candidate in history?
In fulfillment of his backroom pledge to the armchair warriors of the military-industrial complex, President Obama has now signed the largest military budget in the history of the United States, larger than the combined budgets of the rest of the planet. And now this military is being more intensively turned on a semi-literate people who are engaged in a decades-long civil war. Florida Democrat Alan Grayson put it succinctly, "This is an 18th century strategy being employed against a 14th century enemy.”
Military intelligence inside the Obama administration estimates that there are approximately 100 al Qaeda fighters in the entire country of Afghanistan. This is the “cancer” that the president says justifies sending 30,000 additional troops at a cost of $30 billion a year. Once the latest Obama surge is in place, the US will have nearly twice as many troops and contractors in Afghanistan than the USSR at the height of their south Asian misadventure of the late 1980s.
While the military, political and economic elites belief in American exceptionalism — the unquestioned goodness and correctness of the United States — remain impervious to both reason and morality, there are larger forces at work. Every empire in history that acted with stupidity and impunity has been brought down; this empire will fare no better.
Common sense stuff I’m learning from some local liberal “progressives.”
• It is best to buy organic, even if it breaks your bank-balance and you eventually starve. If so, you can always go on an expensive spiritual junket and have your ashes ceremonially scattered over the Ganges River.
• Shop locally, it can be twice as expensive, but it’s good for THE COMMUNITY. But perhaps not so much for the individuals community “members” actually purchasing the items. Not all of us can afford $120 shoes in Willits. But hey! It’s all “sustainable.”
• Repetitive, obsessive, compulsion-based activism resulting in “symbolic victories,” i.e., basically failure is a good thing!
• Born Again Pagans, “new agers,” etc. frequently are as superioristic, judgmental, humorless just plain delusional as any other “fun-damentalists.”
• Corporations are evil, but us folks who eagerly buy their stuff are “all right.”
• Nothing is anybody’s fault. (Unless you’re Dick Cheney.)
• Obama Mania is quickly forgotten.
• Actually, truly believing in faeries, that one is a goddess, or that something truly profound will occur on December 21st, 2012, is a sure sign of “robust mental health”! (Watch for a coming resurgence in pyramid hat usage.)
• There’s no such thing as overpopulation.
• Continual War is always a big surprise.
• Buying a hybrid car (c.f., the Prius craze) in the name of “environmental protectionism” with the resultant obscene denudation of South American and Indonesian rainforests, savannahs, etc. for biofuels to run ones “eco-mobile” makes perfect sense.
• Wine and cheese and food are God!
Just Wondering about “reality,”
NO GRASS? IN MENDO?
I have no cash. And I have no grass. I have blue poppies. Blue poppies in the wheat field. Blue poppies in the dark. When it rains, it pours.
PS. Happy new year. Sis boom to the Editor and fellow AVA readers!
Did you get this email from MMMAB (the Sheriff’s Press release on the recent bust in Fort Bragg involving illegal electricity use)? I’m sure you are on their list. What’s up with a patient’s rights organization repackaging a Sheriff’s Office press release naming and defaming a medical marijuana activist and broadcasting it to their contact list? Has Dennis Hollingsworth done something to offend the MMMAB Mafia? And why drag the girl into it? What is the point? If they just want to warn people about the risks of bypassing an electrical meter, they could have said that. Why was it necessary to smear an individual by name?
What’s odd is that MMMAB has always stood up for all growers, except the nameless, largely mythical and reputedly Mexican national forest growers. But nobody they know by name is ever a criminal grower. Except for Dennis Hollingsworth. MMMAB has defended everyone from the guy on Mitchell Creek Road with over a thousand pounds of processed bud and 65 Mexican trimmers working for him to the cranked out laying in wait murderer on Old Toll Road who ambushed and killed his friend “Trouble” and disposed of the body by loading it into a refrigerator and dumping it off the side of the road where it could be discovered by a passerby.
So I’m wondering, is Pebbles losing her marbles or does she or Tom Davenport have it in for Dennis for some reason? Please print this with a challenge to MMMAB to explain why they are doing the Sheriff’s Office’s dirty work by sending out SO press released to their list. Pebs, what is going on? Is a lifetime of chronic drug use taking its toll?
Name Withheld Please (I don’t want to be on the MMMAB hit list)
PS. This is really pretty outrageous.
A SLAP IN THE FACE
To the Board of Supervisors:
If the Clerk of the Board's office is as busy as Supervisor Pinches alludes to, why not take the $23,000 being considered for a raise for the already well-paid Clerk of the Board and instead use the money towards the hire of another person for the office? Seems like a win-win situation, in that the County CEO says the Clerk of the Board salary is currently correct and someone out there in Ukiah would be happy to get a job.
If Mr. Pinches wants to use working late hours and weekends as a justification for the $23,000 raise for the Clerk of the Board, I think he may need to also consider the many other workers who are putting in unpaid hours. Having been a volunteer at the County animal shelter for the past almost four years, I know that some people there are working on days that the office is officially closed and on weekends. I'm sure this scenario is true for many other employees.
The County is in financial meltdown as is the city of Ukiah, the state and the country. Now is not the time for large raises. In fact, when does this kind of reasoning and mentality stop? Why isn't $84,000 a year enough anymore?
To the average person and taxpayer this kind of stuff is simply a slap in the face.
TAKE THE INITIATIVE
This is an open letter to Tanner Furia Miller. Tanner, I read your letter in the AVA and I admire you for not just sitting around feeling not heard. I also feel badly that you see most teachers as not caring and not willing to help. As a teacher for 40 years I didn't see much of what you describe.
But it doesn't matter what I think. What matters is how you feel. As a piece of advice to you or all teenagers: going to college is not the only way to live a full and happy life. What counts is whether you are willing to learn and willing to work. Becoming an apprentice to someone who owns their own business is the best way to end up doing what you enjoy. Someday you can own your own shop.
Hanging out at the Plaza with friends is not going to help you find what you were seeking. When you start blaming the problems in our world on those on welfare, or aliens, or others, that won't help either.
Writing your letter was a good way to start. I hope I don't sound too preachy, but I am listening. As a retired teacher, parent and grandparent, I have seen a lot of action in life. Those who seem happiest are the ones who decided what they wanted and went out to get it.
Best to you.
I hate to be a pest, but you missed the overriding issue in the upcoming Mendopia Supes contest — affordable housing. Affordable “grow” housing, that is.
How can the younger generations climb aboard the gravy train if they can't afford the entry fee — affordable starter grow houses?
Forget about college, it's economically out of reach for all but the very affluent, and it's irrelevant since Harvard Business School graduates are now working at McDonald's or worse.
In fact, even a high school diploma is a waste of time for those who want a career in the pot industry.
I suggest that the County form an affordable grow housing commission to grease the skids for new entry-level grow house subdivisions — like stoner Levittowns. The old Masonite site would be ideal since it's appropriately zoned industrial.
The whole shebang could be funded by a value-added tax on pot from production to consumption. The Sheriff's zip-ties would have to quadruple in cost.
Isn't it about time for the aging, affluent, top dog stoner generation to give a helping hand to the youngsters below who want a piece of the action?
Yes we can! Let's do it!
Like, happy new year, dude.
PS. I saw some thousand dollar bills flashed around Skumktown this lucrative harvest holiday season. Since the coin of the realm MendoC-note is so common now it doesn't even draw attention, the dudes and dudettes who want to stand out are now flashing MendecaC-notes — the new coin of the realm. I guess that's pwoggy pwogwess.
THE LANDLORD’S LAWYER
This is in response to your article dated 11/24/2009 regarding the Boonville Lodge. I am an attorney representing Mr. Dave Johnson, owner of the property and the landlord of the Boonville Lodge, regarding the lease for the Lodge. You did not contact Mr. Johnson before running the article; he only learned of your article recently from checking your online archives. The article is substantially false.
Contrary to your article, Mr. Johnson did not increase the monthly rent for the Lodge to $3,500.00, or any other amount. The parties did not even get to the rent negotiation stage before Mr. Towey terminated his lease.
The lease the tenants signed states that the monthly rent at the expiration of the term would be negotiated by the parties. The lease gives each party the right to obtain an independent appraisal of the rental value of the property. Mr. Towey obtained his own appraisal, which apparently was not to his liking because, after receiving it, Mr. Towey promptly terminated his lease. He did so without attempting to negotiate a new rental rate with Mr. Johnson. This occurred before Mr. Johnson provided a copy of his appraisal to Mr. Towey. Mr. Towey thus voluntarily terminated his lease, not because of a (non-existent) rent increase by Mr. Johnson.
After Mr. Towey served notice of termination I notified Mr. Towey that, if he held over after the expiration of his termination notice, his monthly rent would be $3,500.00. This was the only time that figure was ever brought up in this matter.
Please print this letter or run a correction. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.
Charles B. Holzhauer, Attorney at Law
Ed reply: Your client apparently hasn't kept you fully informed, counselor, and since when does a letter to the community appearing in the Boonville newspaper require the prior approval of the Sonoma County landlord who inspired it? Mr. Johnson had assured Mr. Towey and Mr. Pratt if they didn't accept his ruinous new lease they'd have to abandon their enterprise, which they have now been forced to do by Johnson's impossible terms, thus destroying a viable and popular business, The Boonville Lodge. That viable and popular business will have been officially destroyed by Mr. Johnson as of January 3rd, its last call. And now Mr. Johnson has paid you to make it seem that he is somehow the injured party, which isn't to say we wouldn't print his version of events if he sent it to us rather than have you woof a lot of nonsense at us again.
Slavoj Zizek said in one of his books (and any of them is worth getting) the following: “They know; but they don't want to know; so they don't know.”
That line goes a long way to explaining America. It applies to the psychological end of the American Empire. We know its over, but we don"t know it.
It applies to the two wars. We know they can't rid us of terrorists, but we don't know. It applies to how bribed the great majority of Senators and Representatives are by corporatons. We know but we allow ourselves to know. It applies to global warming; it applies to the poverty and lack of health care for the underclass; it applies to our educational system; it applies to the upward distribution of wealth; it applies to the destruction of the middle class; it applies to some many parts of our political and social culture. The problem is that such a massive amount of denial makes it pschologically and politically impossible to solve the problems. We are very near the tipping point with many of the problems, very near. We live in apocolyptic times, and we know it, but we don't want to know it, so we don't know it.
Far 'n Away Farm
THE DOCTOR IS IN
As a long time reader of your work, I was sorry to read in your recent edition your criticism of my radio program "Mind Body Health & Politics." After 50 years as a mental health professional/activist, I endeavor to do better than your description of my serving up wheat germ. I welcome your feedback on how I may improve the program and better serve our listeners.
Perhaps you might be interested in an upcoming January 5th interview with Jeff Sharlet, author of a recent best seller entitled The Family, which is about christian fundamentalism/government/business.
Regarding your comments on the “rug issue” at the MAC.
As planned, the rug was used at the MAC's December second Saturday night party which took place on the 3rd Saturday night because of delays caused by the fire at the MAC. Fortunately, because the rug had been temporarily stored in my garage it was not damaged by the MAC fire.
If, and when, you would like “the other side of the story” give me a jingle and I will gladly provide same.
Wishing you a healthy New Year,
Richard Louis Miller, M.A., Ph.D.
ONE MORE THING
To the Editor,
My response to Jeff Blankfort’s response to my Dec 16th Letter “Obama’s War Machine”: While it is true China was one of the first in line to get a contract for Iraq’s oil it is also true that our (US) manufacturing base has been shipped to China and other emerging industrial nations that need oil to produce for American corporations. The Iraq invasion and war was/is a “blood for oil” war with the oil supporting American Corporate/Wall Street interests in emerging industrial nations. American oil companies will also be in line for Iraq’s oil contracts.
I forgot to mention in my original Letter that the Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel, also works with the CIA/al Qaeda group. Mossad performs covert operations such as setting the demolition explosives in WTC 1, 2, and 7.
BELLS, WHISTLES & OVERRUNS
You are undoubtedly correct about overruns with what probably will be a “green” building with all the bells and whistles. The judges, of course, will have their private bathrooms. Heavens to Betsy, you wouldn't want the judges using a public restroom and rubbing shoulders with the likes of you. The real cost overrun will be with the old courthouse building. The usual plan is to consolidate various county agencies into a remodeled office building. Given the building is over a century old, remodeling costs could well go out of sight.
You commented about the county using architects from Sacramento. I would suggest that before they make a decision the county people drive around Sacramento and take a look at the monstrosities that have been built in recent years. Incidentially, you say the proposed land belongs to a now defunct railroad. Is everybody absolutely positive there is no contamination? 3,000 jobs created! Somebody has been smoking the main agricultural product of the county.
James G. Updegraff
The peace movement of the 1960s-70s was fueled by the draft, the use of psychedelics & the wisdom of the Vietnamese people in their modes of resistance.
Jeff Blankfort misconstrues the meaning of my statement, "LSD, 'shrooms and marijuana — all central nervous expanders — fueled the peace movement. Would anyone disagree?" (AVA, 12/23/09).
I didn't mean that the use of "soft drugs" was the only thing that fueled the peace movement, just that it was a significant factor that is usually left out of analyses of that passionate turbulent decade, 1965-75, that ended the draft and finally ended the war in southeast Asia. I never said or suggested LSD "trumps all other political and economic issues that face our society today." I said it played its part as "fuel for the peace movement."
Another factor was the steadfast dignity of the Vietnamese resistance. Public protests of Buddhist monks setting themselves on fire in a village square -- appealing to the world to stop the war -- coincided with draftees burning their draft cards at army induction centers and on campuses where youth were in motion. In no way do I discount the essential importance of the draft on the anti-war movement, fueled by "those most endangered by the Vietnam war on the home front -- the young men facing the draft", as Blankfort rightly points out. They were the engine that brought that faraway war in the rice fields home.
In my letter (AVA 12/16/09), I was trying to make a narrow point about the widespread influence of "consciousness awakeners" like LSD, mushrooms and marijuana on youth seeking answers, who were disaffected by the draft and increasingly opposed to the waging of war against a people who had done the US no wrong. "No Vietnamese ever called me nigger" was a fresh riff on the racism inherent in the war.
America emerged from the 50s--post war "era of the grey flannel suit," colorless, steeped in stereotypes and widespread ignorance based on rigid roles between the sexes, races and classes, women back in the home in aprons, dutifully fixing dinner with Ipana smiles, taking care of the kids; separate water fountains, lunch counters and sections of the bus for blacks and whites. Something was needed to crash through the calcified unequal relations.
There were cracks in the armor.
End of 50s, early 60s came the civil rights movement — lunch-counter sit-ins, bus boycotts, communities organizing, people in motion.
Then the women's movement -- equal rights, reproductive rights, sexual freedom, challenging rape, sexist roles and broader wrongs.
The anti-war movement began in earnest April 1965 at the mass peaceful demonstration in Washington DC, organized by Students for a Democratic Society, where teachers and garbage workers, families with baby strollers, young and old, radical and straight-laced united for a single purpose.
In this context, music was also a factor in bringing people together for peace.
Grace Slick's concert at a mass Be-In in Golden Gate Park, shortly after the DC march, upped the ante when Grace took off her top and continued to play her music to an LSD-taking anti-war crowd. This was back when LSD was still legal, but not for long after that.
It helped galvanize the conscience and vision of a whole generation to see through decades of myths and challenge authority on a mass scale. However short-lived, before being prohibited, LSD made its positive mark.
Even though I used it circumspectly and rarely, it was always to enhance insight, clean out the cobwebs, engage more deeply and increase my commitment to society.
I worked without let-up against the war and the draft to counter the layers upon layers of lies that had to be told to sacrifice the lives of 50,000+ Americans and over one million Vietnamese. LSD had a radicalizing effect on me and millions of others like me and that's why the government outlawed it.
From mass demonstrations and mass be-ins to draft card burnings and Oakland Induction Center train stoppages, from draft resisters leaving America for Canada to retired Generals against the Vietnam War touring on the lecture circuit with anti-war GIs — a quiescent society was no more!
The American people were awakening due to a number of compatible factors working in concert to force a change. Consciousness expanders like LSD were a factor, from North America to Czechoslovakia.
I have in mind the 1968 experiment in self-government of the Czechoslovak people who broke through the rigidity of Soviet-imposed bureaucracy with the help of LSD.
It was reputedly manufactured in Prague labs, a primary LSD source in the 60s, due to the easy availability of ergot (amine tartrate) in local forests. It was known to be used by Alexander Dubcek and the entire central committee in their goal of workers' control. It was a primary factor in giving rise to the 1968 democracy revolution ("socialism with a human face") that brought in the Soviet troops and an end to the experiment.
I wonder if we restored the best of that era and lifted the prohibition on LSD -- if the challenge to authority would rise again.