- COMMET Raids
- Little Dog
- Litigious Moores
- Albion Bridge
- Mailliard Ranch
- Navarro Pump
- Marco Radio
- Butterfly Re-emerges
- Mountain Lions
- Yesterday's Catch
- Too Poor
- Death Caps
- Pursuing Privilege
- First Family
- Reckless Decision
- American Healthcare
- Night Howls
- Corals Dying
- County Vacancies
- Greenish Brown
- Hollow Obama
THE RECENT COMMET RAIDS in the Laytonville area have irritated several top County officials. Just as the County’s new medical cannabis program is being rolled out, a County of Mendocino Marijuana Eradication Team (COMMET) cut down what is described as “300 to 500” plants at a gro which was enrolled in last year’s 9.31 program and which was apparently in the process of applying for this year’s much more complicated and burdensome process. The grower of the 300-500 plants had a sign posted on their clearly unhidden grow saying to please call their attorney before taking any action. Sheriff’s Captain Greg Van Patten has said that Sheriff Allman personally ordered the raid — aka “executed a search warrant” — leading to questions about what constitutes an intent to apply for a permit.
COUNTY STAFFERS who spent lots of time developing and implementing the new permit rules are concerned that the Sheriff’s action will scare away potential permit applications as growers face daunting permit and paperwork challenges while trying to get their plants started for the growing season (for outdoor grows).
THE COUNTY’S PRESS RELEASE issued late Friday afternoon didn’t do much to clarify the situation.
And no one seems to know if the Sheriff/COMMET will file charges against the targets of the raid of if the DA will act on them.
SO FAR we’ve heard that something like 350 permits have been applied for but we have not heard how many have been approved or returned for more information. The County budget is based on around 600 permit applications at around $3,000 each (plus various other agency fees and tax minimums and sales taxes on actual sales, not counting lawyer fees, consultants, permit costs for water and wildlife agencies…).
THE LAYTONVILLE COMMET RAID has further complicated an already byzantine and unwieldy arrangement at the same time that more and more grumpy growers are pressuring County officials to get their act together and not make the permit process any more difficult or risky than it already is.
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “Someone snuck in and planted three marijuana plants out front. Natch, I'm getting blamed for not stopping whoever did it. But here's the rub? These guys are watering the plants? So, like, how upset about it can they be?”
IRISH BEACH HIT WITH MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR JUDGMENT
(Press Release from Ukiah Attorney Donald McMullen of the Law Offices of Duncan James)
Ukiah, CA - A Mendocino County court recently ordered the Irish Beach Water District to pay over two million dollars in compensation to a landowner and in refunds to its customers for assessments the court found the District had wrongfully used and collected. Superior Court Judge Ann Moorman's judgment requires the District to pay William and Tona Moores in excess of $1.5 million and to issue refunds to its customers, including the Moores, totaling over $900,000 in previously collected assessments. The Irish Beach Water District is the public agency responsible for the system that provides water to properties within the Irish Beach subdivision near Manchester along the Mendocino County coast. The area is a popular vacation and rental home destination, with nearly 450 subdivided lots, about 200 of which have homes constructed on them. According to the Moores' attorney, Ukiah's Donald McMullen with the Law Office of Duncan James, the Moores, whose family originally developed the subdivision, own a home in Irish Beach and several undeveloped parcels. According to McMullen, the lawsuit was filed by Moores after the District drilled a water well on Moores' property and began taking water for use throughout the subdivision. "The District did not have permission from the Moores to enter their land for that purpose, let alone drill a well and take water without compensation."
The court's judgment found the District's actions amounted to "inverse condemnation" of Moores' property and rights, as well as trespass. "Basically, where a governmental entity unilaterally decides to take a citizen's property without permission and without paying fair compensation, it is guilty of inverse condemnation," stated McMullen. All told, the court ordered the District to pay Moores over $1.5 million for its conduct related to the well, including nearly $255,000 in damages for breaching a contract it had made with Moores to construct a different water project, which it decided to abandon after drilling the new well. "The District took the position that it had the right to do whatever it pleased and to take whatever it wished from the Moores for free. Water is a valuable commodity. The court's judgment reflects that fact," said McMullen. Moores also challenged assessments the District had levied against the subdivision properties. According to the court's ruling, District property owners had approved a multi-purpose assessment in 2002. However, the District improperly used assessment funds, wrongfully continued assessments for the construction of a water project it had abandoned years before, and it over collected assessments beyond the limits and timeframes the voters had approved. The court's judgment enjoins the District from continuing to collect assessments beyond the stated limits and timeframes and altogether terminated the assessment being levied for the abandoned project. The judgment also requires that the District first reimburse the assessment funds for the improper expenditures and losses and then issue refunds to property owners. According to McMullen, "the District is on the hook to reimburse the funds between $400,000 and $500,000. After doing that, it then must issue refunds to property owners, including the Moores, in excess of $920,000. And, these figures don't account for assessments collected, and interest accruing, over the last year, not to mention the attorney's fees the Moores incurred to undertake this effort, which they are entitled to recover. In other words, the actual figures are much higher."
Donald J. McMullen
Law Office of Duncan M. James
445 N. State Street
Ukiah, CA 95482
Phone: (707) 468-9271
Fax: (707) 468-0453
* * *
MARK SCARAMELLA COMMENTS:
When my father retired to Irish Beach in the mid-80s after a 40 year career in the creamery industry, he naively assumed he could live out the rest of his life in modest comfort with my mother in Irish Beach (between Elk and Manchester on the Mendocino Coast, not far from where my father was born). My mother picked the house in Irish Beach because she liked the view of the ocean and the Point Arena lighthouse.
It wasn’t long before my father was recruited onto the Irish Beach Water District board. Soon after that, at the age of 82, he became the oldest man in California history to obtain a Water Treatment Operator II license (after six months of classes and stringent tests) based on his familiarity with pipes, plumbing, and public health. With that license he volunteered as a back-up operator as needed for over ten years in Irish Beach.
My father, however, did not bargain for having to constantly butt heads with Irish Beach developer Bill Moores who sued the Water District Board numerous times during my father's tenure. Moores lost all of his lawsuits back then primarily because they were petty and mostly a form of intimidation and harassment, without legal basis. But the wealthy Moores, who kept several lawyers on speed dial, caused the Water District to spend tens of thousands of dollars defending themselves. Moores owns all of the several hundred vacant lots in the 500-some-odd-parcel development and many of the partially built lots and one or two completed homes, all of which benefited substantially from not only the installation of the water system but the provision and administration of good drinking water which made Moores’ parcels marketable in the first place.
My father and his fellow elderly water board members received many highly detailed hand-scrawled complaints from Moores during the approximate eight years my father was on the board, each one carrying the implied threat of a lawsuit if Moores didn’t get what he wanted. The complaints caused much consternation on the board and made it hard to recruit new members from an already small pool of candidates, not to mention the physical and psychological toll that the constant complaints and lawsuits took on my aging father. At one point, my father, who took his Board role very seriously, was losing so much sleep worrying about and dealing with Moores’ constant griping, that my mother tried to convince him to resign from the Board before it killed him.
Last I heard about the Irish Beach water board in the early 2000s, Moores had succeeded in packing the board with friends and relatives and the majority of Irish Beach residents, while unhappy about Moores’ coup, at least thought that the days of bitter petty disputes were behind them.
My only personal contact with Moores since my father died was his occasional visits to the Irish Beach house to tell us that he thought a few trees ought to be trimmed, even though all the neighbors liked the trees and the only view that they (partially) obstructed was from a vacant lot a couple of houses up from my parents’ old house.
According to the Mendocino County Superior Court Case Index Moores began filing suits against the Irish Beach Water District Board as early as 1987. In 1997, Moores and his wife Tona even sued Moores’ own brother Gordon who manages the development on-site. (Moores lives in Healdsburg.)
Since 1990 Moores and his wife Tona have filed well over 40 civil lawsuits, most of them against the Irish Beach Water District, and Moores himself has been the defendant in about 20 additional lawsuits, a few of those criminal.
In at least two cases we know of Mr. Moores has been cited by Mendo’s Coast Planning Department for unpermitted activities and in one case he plead guilty to cutting down trees on a neighbor's property without bothering to ask or even notify the neighbors.
So it was depressing to see yesterday’s press release (above) from the Ukiah-based Duncan James law offices written by Moores’ latest attorney Donald McMullen which reports that Moores and his wife have finally hit the jackpot with a judgment against the Water District for over $1.5 million, a big chunk of which will go to Moores’ attorney(s).
Besides the obvious fact that a small water district like Irish Beach probably can't pay anything like $1.5 million to anyone, it is particularly galling to read that the water district somehow violated Moores’ property rights, conducted an "inverse condemnation" and "trespassed" in their ordinary water admin duties.
(Ironically, Moores himself was convicted of trespassing in the case where he cut down the neighbor’s trees.)
McMullen's press release says that "the District took the position that it had the right to do whatever it pleases and take whatever it wished from the Moores for free."
Oh, please. That kind of silly rhetoric is probably what Moores told McMullen to write and which pretty much sums up Moores’ attitude in one simple sentence.
McMullen's press release also implies that the problem began all the way back in 2002, which shows that Moores’ legal perseverance has finally paid off bigtime.
This is not to say that the water district and its board was entirely in the right, and may indeed have made mistakes in billing, accounting, and/or record keeping especially concerning water system project development.
But it's hard to believe that a wealthy former Ukiah small-time timber baron and realtor like Moores could be so egregiously wronged to the extent his lawyer’s gleeful press release boasts about.
As if small water districts don't have enough problems with numerous regulations and droughts and staffing to deal with, poor Irish Beach may now be facing possible bankruptcy. Which would be bad, of course, but would certainly serve Mr. Moores right if he loses his self-created enemy and his development’s water.
To say that I’m glad we sold that old Irish Beach house a few years ago and got away from Moores and his lawsuits, would be a major understatement.
But it’s a cautionary tale for small water districts in general when one of the district’s major landowners and developers has deep enough pockets to hire lawyers to make district operations miserable for everyone involved.
NICE SHOTS OF HWY 1 ALBION RIVER BRIDGE BEING BUILT (via MSP)
THE MAILLIARD RANCH
A Majestic Landscape Destined for Conservation, not Development
From the top of a peak known as Flag Point, it’s easy to understand what’s at stake. You turn slowly, taking in a 360-degree panorama of heavily forested canyons and mountains, expansive meadowlands and, far to the west, a soft, cerulean horizon that marks the Pacific Ocean. You watch as black-tailed deer and jackrabbits dart through meadow grasses to avoid the watchful eye of a golden eagle circling above. In the distance, an orange sun slips behind a ridge top, silhouetting the crowns of massive redwoods.
This is Mailliard Ranch. At 14,898 acres, it is the largest undivided family-owned property in southern Mendocino County. Moreover, with nearly 1,000 acres of towering old-growth redwood forest and mixed conifer groves, it is the largest expanse of redwood forest still in private family hands in the coast range, providing shelter and sustenance for a wide range of rare and endangered plants and wildlife. Located in a valley of hobby farms, vineyard developments and sprouting second homes, the 72 potential legal lots on this ranch pose an ever-present temptation for the ranch’s numerous co-owners—multigenerational family members who are geographically dispersed—to sell to developers. The prospect of losing this northern California redwood gem is all too real, given the uncertainty of what future ranch inheritors may decide to do with the land.
But now, thanks to the Mailliard family and Save the Redwoods League, this expansive ranchland is poised to be protected through conservation easements, ensuring permanent protection of the old-growth redwoods and 28 miles of fish-bearing streams at the headwaters of the Garcia River and in tributaries of the Navarro River. The conservation agreement also will eliminate the threat of subdivision and development on the entire property.
“We are deeply honored that the Mailliards have chosen to work with Save the Redwoods League to achieve permanent protection of this incomparable property,” said Sam Hodder, League President and CEO. “These easements consolidate the family’s remarkable preservation legacy and allow the League to carry forward our shared conservation vision for the land.”
As part of the agreement, the Mailliards will retain ownership of the land and continue to steward and manage it. This innovative partnership positions the League to permanently safeguard the most significant family-owned redwood forest in the coast redwood range—a truly extraordinary opportunity for conservation.
Completion of this project would nearly double the amount of land that Save the Redwoods League has protected in Mendocino County.
Mailliard Ranch is off Route 128 near Boonville, California, in the scenic Anderson Valley. Formerly a sheep ranch producing New Zealand Merinos renowned for their high-quality wool, the property is now home to a small, low-impact cattle operation.
Strategically located in the heart of Mendocino County, the ranch serves as a buffer to accelerating development in the area and secures the stability of the regional forest ecosystem. It also connects adjacent Mailliard Redwoods State Natural Reserve—donated by the family to the League for inclusion in the California State Parks system in 1946—and the Garcia River Forest, creating a mosaic of more than 82,000 acres of contiguous protected landsextending the river’s headwaters to the coast. This ideal connectivity has made the ranch a decades-long priority for conservation interests in California.
“The Mailliard family has stitched together and steadily healed a landscape that had been previously subdivided among dozens of small landowners. They took what was once a scrappy patchwork of heavily managed land and carefully nurtured it back to health,” Hodder said. “But as current family members are well aware, their past conservation stewardship does not guarantee permanent protection. Development and subdivision loom as serious threats, which is why we must act now to protect this land for the future.”
The Mailliard family has zealously guarded the old-growth redwoods on the ranch for decades, and has limited sustainable, selective timber production to previously managed portions of the ranch. In fact, current operations are exceedingly light: There is little visible indication of the selective thinning the family employs to ensure the long-term health of the forest, its creeks and streams, and its rich wildlife habitat.
That’s because conservation has been first and foremost for the Mailliards since 1925, when the family purchased the original parcel at the heart of the ranch. Over the years, they expanded the property by acquiring neighboring parcels as they came up for sale, resulting in a seamless natural landscape.
“At Mailliard Ranch, long-term care has always co-existed with environmentally sound land use,” said forester Todd McMahon, who has worked with the Mailliards and other clients for years. “Sustainable timber management is just now becoming standard, but this family has been doing it for 90 years. They were far ahead of their time. To this day, they advance the ecological health of the redwood forest as their first priority.”
The protection of Mailliard Ranch preserves precious natural resources and delivers tangible benefits to people and wildlife. From inspirational redwood groves and scenic vistas, to abundant plant and animal habitat, clean air and water, and mitigation of environmental impacts from climate change, the exceptional natural values of this property are many. What’s more, the scale at which these benefits exist is massive and transformative, ensuring that the wild character and biodiversity of the entire southern Mendocino County region remain intact, ecologically resilient and protected from future encroachments.
The ranch’s ancient redwoods are of paramount interest to the League. The easement that the League is purchasing places these spectacular old-growth trees under permanent protection; at the same time, sustainable harvest on the ranch’s second-growth working forestlands will emphasize low-impact techniques and the acceleration of old-growth characteristics via selective thinning.
The conservation easement will reduce by one-half the amount of timber that could have been cut under the California Forest Practice rules. In addition, the easement will permanently protect two beautiful old-growth groves, prohibit clearcutting, and significantly improve stream protection. Under the easement, the family will continue to maintain the property as a working ranch with a small, low-impact cattle operation.
“Our family’s vision has always been to save this land for future generations,” said ranch co-owner Charlotte Mailliard Shultz. “Now it’s gratifying to know that, through our partnership with Save the Redwoods League, the natural integrity of these rolling hills and redwood forests can remain intact, and the beauty and character of this place has the potential to be protected forever.”
The total value of the conservation easements protecting Mailliard Ranch is $26.665 million. The Mailliard family has agreed to accept $21.665 million, contributing $5 million of the purchase price. The Mailliards will also donate $4 million in carbon offset credits, boosting the real value of the family’s financial donation to $9 million.
We thank our generous donors for contributing $3 million. Save the Redwoods League is seeking additional public funding from state and federal grant programs to complete the project.
Because of our donors’ help, we can ensure permanent protection of this signature redwood landscape so that the ranch’s splendid forests, rivers and streams, and vast array of plants and wildlife continue to survive and thrive.
When added to adjacent protected lands, it will create more than 82,000 acres of protected hillsides, meadows and forestland — protection that will last forever.
NAVARRO FILLING STATION
THROW YOUR VOICE.
The recording of Friday night's (2017-06-02) KNYO and KMEC Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show is available to download and enjoy via
That was my 1000th Memo of the Air show. They gave a party and filled the place up with people. There was pizza and chopped fruit and popcorn and almonds and soda pop and a pretty good cake. I didn’t have to do a thing but run the board and read the show. I don't do well in a crowd, and Jerry and Bob took care of the whole thing — and my mother bought the cake and chopped the fruit — and the whole thing was surprisingly painless and I'm grateful, because they told me they were going to do it and I was anxious. Also it was neat the way about a dozen people over the course of the night filtered into the booth at random and sat at the guest mic...
At one point Mitch [Clogg] was talking about Trump and the general helpless weltschmerz of the political situation, and two women and their little children wandered in off the street and were standing in the doorway; one of the women got in a discussion with Mitch, and made a number of good points. I was looking at my watch and thinking about how I should be reading this or that thing by now, that I'd brought, but then I grasped that this is what radio is supposed to do. People should feel comfortable walking into a real radio station, right into the broadcast booth, and doing exactly this, and where else is it possible? Not at any of the commercial stations, that's for sure.
Not at KZYX, which is having its pledge drive now with a goal of, I think, $60,000 to raise, where not coincidentally the manager pays himself exactly $60,000 and pays the local airpeople exactly nothing, so whatever they tell you on the air about how Mendocino County Public Broadcasting Corporation needs your money to do this or that important thing is a fricking lie, because every dollar raised in the pledge drive goes straight up the manager's personal nose. They say only 20 percent of their budget is covered by their federal grant, but their federal grant is $160,000 a year; five times that is $800,000, and that’s a crazy amount of money, enough to build a dozen radio stations from scratch and run them all for a year.
Radio does not cost that much. An entire radio station is less complicated than the phone in your pocket. Something is fishy there. It's a money-laundering scheme or it's something but it’s just not right. And on up the chain: just Ira Glass and his two producers of a one-hour NPR show are paid $500,000 a year. And a local treasure like Jamie Roberts is paid zip. And a crackerjack reporter like Sheila Dawn Tracy can’t even get on the air at KZYX, nor can I. Does that seem right to you?
If you're hearing pledge drive pitches on the radio and feeling influenced by Pavlovian conditioning to pay them so they can put on more and longer pledge drives, it's little KNYO that needs your money. In other words, go to http://knyo.org instead. Click on the big red heart.
Every penny you give to KNYO pays immediately for something necessary, visible, audible and/or tangible, and there’s no hocus pocus. Or, whatever, do what you want. Maybe you like hocus pocus. It’s a poetic phrase; it’s fun to say. Say it when you click on the heart.
Anyway, also at http://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com you'll find directions to many not necessarily radio-useful though worthwhile goods that I found while putting radio shows together. Items such as:
Her Master’s Voice, by and about Nina Conti. "Easily the most heartbreaking, romantic, and profound film about ventriloquism ever made."http://www.avclub.com/article/iher-masters-voicei-is-the-most-profound-movie-abo-95915
Mad Marx: the class warrior.http://existentialcomics.com/comic/186
Accents. Cockney on top, but try the others nearby, too.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhW0Lr7ERLA
The story of Cream.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UgiJPnwtQU
Celebrity and health struggles have taken a toll on Julia “Butterfly” Hill since she climbed down 18 years ago from an ancient North Coast redwood tree. She remains, however, an undaunted missionary for the environment.
MOUNTAIN LION POPCORN
Mountain Lions & Cats
Ronnie James Writes (on MCN listserve)
I'm saddened to read of all the lost cats in the Airport Road area of Little River. Yes, we do have at least one mountain lion who makes Airport Road its territory. Mountain lions do not kill cats to eat them, but as a matter of ridding their territory of any other cat, and they will stop at nothing to do that-it's instinctive. Mt. Lions spend time assessing whether or not something is a good food item or worth pursuing. In the case of humans, while they are not afraid of us, they seem to have assessed us as perhaps not worth the trouble to catch because of our size and whatever other things go on in a mountain lion's mind. I have heard reports from all over the country that they will walk right up to your open door and grab a cat or dog, they certainly see a dog on a leash or in a pen or tied up as potential food items. As they are not afraid of people, they will not hesitate to take a dog on a leash. They hunt or are active in the several hours before sunset and several hours after sunrise--except in the case of cats, which they will dispose of any time they happen to see one no matter what the time of day. I have a cat and I know how difficult it is to keep it in the house. I've given him a place where he can howl all he wants at night, but I don't have to listen to it and he is safely confined so the night lion won't get him. It's a problem to which I do not know the answer--except to keep my cat inside. Garages and sheds can all make comfortable night quarters for a cat. We all live here because we want to be by the ocean and near or in the forest, see woodlands critters, be closer to mother nature, but all those things include the wild animals like mountain lions. AND ABSOLUTELY do not allow toddlers or young children to play alone outside or wander the woods. If your dog barks when the kids are out playing--check it out. We seem to have had many more sightings of lions recently than in years past.
CATCH OF THE DAY, June 3, 2017
JONATHAN ALBERS, Eugene, Oregon/Willits. Possessio nof assault weapon, loaded firearm in public, pot transportation for sale.
WYATT BILL, Covelo. Drunk in public, resisting.
GLORIA CAINE, Willits. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun, domestic assault, criminal threats.
ROBERT COOK, Fort Bragg. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun, brandishing.
BRANDON IRVIN, Calpella. Drunk in public.
JOSEPH LOVATO, Ukiah. Paraphernalia, parole violation.
JASON MADDUX, Ukiah. Drunk in public.
JUAN MARTINEZ, Ukiah. Drunk in public.
VERONICA OROZCO, Ukiah. Domestic assault.
ARYLIS PETERS JR., Covelo. Battery with serious injury.
DANIEL PIERCE, Ukiah. Controlled substance, probation revocation.
LEWIS RILEY, Redwood Valley. DUI.
THE NATIVES are too poor to go anywhere. They are too poor to escape the reality of their lives; and they are too poor to live properly in the place where they live, which is the very place you, the tourist, want to go — so when the natives see you, the tourist, they envy you, they envy your ability to leave your own banality and boredom, they envy your ability to turn their own banality and boredom into a source of pleasure for yourself.
— Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place
Death Cap Mushrooms
Report: ‘Death caps’ poison 14 in Bay Area last December
SAN FRANCISCO — A new report says 14 people were poisoned after eating “death cap” mushrooms last year in the Bay Area. Most recovered but three people needed liver transplants, including an 18-month-old girl who suffered permanent neurological damage, according to Friday’s report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The poisonings occurred over two weeks last December. The report, compiled by Northern California doctors, says the people ate toxic Amanita phalloides, or “death cap” mushrooms collected from the wild.
ON-LINE COMMENTS OF THE DAY 1 & 2
(1) I’d like to add that the point of higher education today IS to become privileged.
It used to be about learning, knowledge, and carrying along the culture. That’s before Big Ed became one of the Rackets.
Parents who pay big money to purchase privilege for their kids don’t want their progeny flunking out and wasting their money either.
Hence the proliferation of pseudo-scientific and opinion-based “studies”. They’re an easier passing grade than basket weaving, which requires a certain amount of skill and application.
(2) As I see it, nowadays there are three basic goals of higher education. There’s the actual love of knowledge, which is real for a lot of people. Second comes the pursuit of advantage, and third but not least important is the pursuit of privilege.
Advantage and privilege aren’t the same thing, but they’re often confused. Pursuing advantage just means working to get ahead, which is fine. Advantage that comes from one’s own efforts isn’t a problem. Privilege, on the other hand, means being in a position where the rules are different for you than for other people. Most of the financial scams and swindles that JHK complains about, for example, could be called examples of financial privilege because people are either using their position in the economy (at big banks, etc.) to divert monetary flows away from others and toward themselves, or else capturing government in order to rig the rules in their favour. This can happen in academia too, in other ways.
TRUMP’S STUPID & RECKLESS CLIMATE DECISION
by Bill McKibben
People say, if all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. We should be so lucky. President Trump has a hammer, but all he’ll use it for is to smash things that others have built, as the world looks on in wonder and in fear. The latest, most troubling example is his decision to obliterate the Paris climate accord: After nearly 200 years of scientific inquiry and over 20 years of patient diplomacy that united every nation save Syria and Nicaragua, we had this afternoon’s big game-show Rose Garden reveal: Count us out.
It’s a stupid and reckless decision — our nation’s dumbest act since launching the war in Iraq. But it’s not stupid and reckless in the normal way. Instead, it amounts to a thorough repudiation of two of the civilizing forces on our planet: diplomacy and science. It undercuts our civilization’s chances of surviving global warming, but it also undercuts our civilization itself, since that civilization rests in large measure on those two forces.
Science first. Since the early 1800s we’ve been slowly but surely figuring out the mystery of how our climate operates — why our planet is warmer than it should be, given its distance from the sun. From Fourier to Foote and Tyndall, from Arrhenius to Revelle and Suess and Keeling, researchers have worked out the role that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases play in regulating temperature. By the 1980s, as supercomputers let us model the climate with ever greater power, we came to understand our possible fate. Those big brains, just in time, gave us the warning we required.
And now, in this millennium, we’ve watched the warning start to play out. We’ve seen 2014 set a new global temperature record, which was smashed in 2015 and smashed again in 2016. We’ve watched Arctic sea ice vanish at a record pace and measured the early disintegration of Antarctica’s great ice sheets. We’ve been able to record alarming increases in drought and flood and wildfire, and we’ve been able to link them directly to the greenhouse gases we’ve poured into the atmosphere. This is the largest-scale example in the planet’s history of the scientific method in operation, the continuing dialectic between hypothesis and skepticism that arrived eventually at a strong consensus about the most critical aspects of our planet’s maintenance. Rational people the world around understand. As Bloomberg Businessweek blazoned across its cover the week after Hurricane Sandy smashed into Wall Street, “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.”
But now President Trump (and 22 Republican senators who wrote a letter asking him to take the step) is betting that all of that is wrong. Mr. Trump famously called global warming a hoax during the campaign, and with this decision he’s wagering that he was actually right — he’s calling his own bluff. No line of argument in the physical world supports his claim, and no credible authority backs him, not here and not abroad. It’s telling that he simultaneously wants to cut the funding for the satellites and ocean buoys that monitor our degrading climate. Every piece of data they collect makes clear his foolishness. He’s simply insisting that physics isn’t real.
But it’s not just science that he’s blowing up. The Paris accord was a high achievement of the diplomatic art, a process much messier than science, and inevitably involving compromise and unseemly concession. Still, after decades of work, the world’s negotiators managed to bring along virtually every nation: the Saudis and the low-lying Marshall Islanders, the Chinese and the Indians. One hundred and ninety-five nations negotiated the Paris accord, including the United States.
The dysfunctional American political process had already warped the process, of course. The reason Paris is a series of voluntary agreements and not a real treaty is because the world had long since understood that no binding document would ever get two-thirds of the vote in our oil-soaked Senate. And that’s despite the fact that the agreement asks very little of us: President Barack Obama’s mild shift away from coal-fired power and toward higher-mileage cars would have satisfied our obligations.
Those changes, and similar ones agreed to by other nations, would not have ended global warming. They were too small. But the hope of Paris was that the treaty would send such a strong signal to the world’s governments, and its capital markets, that the targets would become a floor and not a ceiling; that shaken into action by the accord, we would start moving much faster toward renewable energy, maybe even fast enough to begin catching up with the physics of global warming. There are signs that this has been happening: The plummeting price of solar energy just this spring persuaded India to forgo a huge planned expansion of coal plants in favor of more solar panel arrays to catch the sun. China is shutting coal mines as fast as it can build wind turbines.
And that’s precisely the moment President Trump chose to make his move, a bid to undercut our best hope for a workable future in a bizarre attempt to restore the past. A few fossil-fuel barons may be pleased (Vladimir Putin likely among them, since his reign rests on the unobstructed development of Russia’s hydrocarbons), but most of the country and the world see this for the disaster it is. Majorities in every single state, red and blue alike, wanted America to stay in the accord.
And so we will resist. As the federal government reneges on its commitments, the rest of us will double down on ours. Already cities and states are committing to 100 percent renewable energy. Atlanta was the latest to take the step. We will make sure that every leader who hesitates and waffles on climate will be seen as another Donald Trump, and we will make sure that history will judge that name with the contempt it deserves. Not just because he didn’t take climate change seriously, but also because he didn’t take civilization seriously.
(Bill McKibben is a founder of 350.org and teaches environmental studies at Middlebury College.)
A READER WRITES: "a good tarzan yell takes practice. Check it out. (feels good)” — Flogsta, Sweden:
US CORAL REEFS WILL DISAPPEAR WITHIN DECADES
This letter follows and compliments my letters of April 14 and April 22 regarding the bleaching and death of coral reefs around the world as well as the resulting drastic economic effect by the loss of coral reefs. The Guardian recently had an article commenting on new research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) based on surveys taken in October 2015 and January 2016 and published in PeerJ. The report showed that strict conservation measures in Hawaii have not spared corals from a warming ocean in one of its most prized bays. Surveys of the Hanauma Bay nature preserve on Oahu where fishing is banned and has 3,000 visitors a day found 47% of the coral experienced bleaching with nearly 10% dying. "This is a protected place and yet it's not able to escape the temperature" said Angela Richards Dona of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology and co-author of the report. The Guardian discussed the report with several scientists who are active in this issue. They pointed out that America's main reefs, found off Hawaii, Florida, Guam and Puerto Rico are facing a largely unheralded disaster. Plus the world's oceans have absorbed more than 90% of the extra heat generated by the release of greenhouse gases from human activity. Dona commented "There are places in the world that have lost a tremendous amount of coral and we have the same prognosis if we continue to burn fossil fuels in the way we are doing. We need to cut our emissions because the corals just can't handle it." Sound advice but unfortunately President Trump and EPA Administrator Pruitt do not appear to have the mental agility to grasp what is climate change and what needs to be done to reduce its effect on our lives as well on our children's and grandchildren's lives.
In peace and love,
Mendocino County Executive Office is accepting applications for anticipated vacancies on the following Board or Commission:
Behavioral Health Advisory Board (1) -- Fifth District Public Interest --
Laytonville Municipal Advisory Council (1) --Member--
Mendocino County Planning Commission (1) --Third District Representative--
Westport Municipal Advisory Council (2) --Member (2 seats available)--
Please note: Anticipated vacancies include expiring terms: the incumbent of the expiring term may apply for reappointment and/or may continue to serve in their capacity until replaced. California Government Code requires public noticing for all expiring terms regardless of the incumbent’s intention to apply for reappointment.
If you are interested in serving on this Board or Commission, contact your District Supervisor, or the Executive Office, at 501 Low Gap Road, Room 1010, Ukiah, CA 95482 (707) 463-4441.
Last Date For Filing: June 13, 2017, or until filled.
Carmel J. Angelo
Clerk of the Board of Supervisors
JERRY BROWN POSES AS 'CLIMATE LEADER' WHILE HE PROMOTES FRACKING, DELTA TUNNELS
by Dan Bacher
Responding to President Donald Trump’s decision on June 1 to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, California Governor Jerry Brown immediately issued a bluntly-worded statement condemning the decision.
“Donald Trump has absolutely chosen the wrong course," said Brown. "He’s wrong on the facts. America’s economy is boosted by following the Paris Agreement. He’s wrong on the science. Totally wrong. California will resist this misguided and insane course of action. Trump is AWOL but California is on the field, ready for battle.”
As usual, Brown's statement and ensuing interviews were greeted by mostly fawning, uncritical coverage by the national and international media portraying the Governor as the "resistance" to Trump and a "climate leader." Brown may speak colorful and fiery words at times, but they are often not backed up by his actions.
He's a political genius when it comes to working media, since he's convinced much of the state, national and international media that he's a "climate leader" and "green governor" when he actually oversees some of the most environmentally devastating policies of any governor in recent California history.
If Brown really cared about climate change, green energy and the people of California and the planet, he would take a number of urgently-needed actions, rather than issue constant statements and proclamations about how "green" his administration is.
Some of the most important actions Brown could take include:
(1) Sign the pledge, initiated by the Environmental Caucus of the Democratic Party, to no longer take Big Oil and fossil fuel money;
(2) Return at least some of the nearly $10 million that he has received in recent years from the oil and energy companies;
(3) support a ban on new land-based fracking operations in California;
(4) back a ban on offshore fracking operations;
(5) enforce the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) of 1999 and make the questionable "marine protected areas" created under the helm of a big oil lobbyist into real ones;
(6) stop appointing oil and energy company officials to California's regulatory panels and commissions;
(7) remove those officials who have conflicts of interests regarding their investments in oil and energy companies.
(8) oppose carbon trading policies, backed by the Western States Petroleum Association, that merely trade pollution from one area to another, at great expense to indigenous peoples around the globe;
(9) stop the state's two-year delay on the implementation of scientific recommendations to protect people living with close proximity to oil and gas regulations;
(10) halt his environmentally destructive Delta Tunnels plan, a project that will destroy the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, and hasten the extinction of winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and many other fish species. In addition, Brown's "legacy project" will imperil salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.
I would much rather have Brown address any one of these real problems that the people and environment of California now suffer from than have him go off to grandstand at yet another climate conference to stroke his ego.
On February 6, twelve public interest groups, led by Consumer Watchdog and Food & Water Watch, unveiled a comprehensive "report card" on Jerry Brown Administration’s environmental record showing he falls short in six out of seven key areas, including oil drilling, fossil fuel generated electricity, toxic emissions, the California Environmental Quality Act, coastal protection and water. The report recommends some additional actions for the Brown administration to take, along with several of the same actions I recommended.
“Far from the environmentalist that Brown claims to be, Brown has expanded the burning of heat-trapping natural gas and nurtured oil drilling and hydraulic fracturing while stifling efforts to protect the public from harm,” the report says. “The Public Utilities Commission has approved a slew of unnecessary new fossil-fuel power plants when the state's three major investor-owned utilities have overbuilt their generating capacity by nearly triple the minimum extra capacity that the state requires. Under Brown, the number of active onshore oil and gas wells jumped by 23 percent since the year before he was elected Governor in a bid to produce more oil.”
The report calls for a moratorium on the building of natural gas powered electricity plants, given what they described as “the glut of electric capacity,” and calls for an outside audit of the state’s energy needs. The groups showed how California can improve its environmental protections to meet standards set in other states.
The document recommends that the administration:
- Use executive authority to ban fracking as New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo did, reject any drilling in protected coastal sanctuaries, and phase out oil drilling. End irrigation with wastewater.
- Abandon the regional grid, deny new natural gas plant applications, revisit those already approved and close Aliso Canyon permanently.
- Create an oversight board for toxics regulation, require companies to pay for cleanup and to increase penalties.
- Stop CEQA exemptions for developers and industry.
- Uphold the Coastal Act protections. Move nuclear waste to a licensed facility.
- Abandon the Delta Tunnels, the controversial California WaterFix. Make water conservation a priority. Force industry to pay for clean water.
“Brown has run into the arms of polluting industries, hurting the environment and vulnerable communities,” summed up Liza Tucker, the author of the report. “Despite continuing the climate change work begun by his predecessors, on a wide array of environmental issues Brown has allowed or encouraged regulators to fail.”
Read the report “How Green Is Jerry Brown?” at:
OBAMA: HOLLOW MAN FILLED WITH RULING CLASS IDEAS
by Paul Street
A “Hollow” Man Who Was “Unwilling to Fight the Good Fight”
What on Earth motivated the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and law professor David J. Garrow to write an incredibly detailed 1078-page (1460 pages with endnotes and index included) biography of Barack Obama from conception through election to the White House? Not any great personal affinity for Obama on Garrow’s part, that’s for sure. Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama is no hagiography. On the last page of this remarkable tome, Garrow describes Obama at the end of his distinctly non-transformative and “failed presidency” as a man who had long ago had become a “vessel [that] was hollow at its core.”
Near the conclusion, Garrow notes how disappointed and betrayed many of Obama’s former friends felt by a president who “doesn’t feel indebted to people” (in the words of a former close assistant) and who spent inordinate time on the golf course and “celebrity hobnobbing” (1067). Garrow quotes one of Obama’s “long-time Hyde Park [Chicago] friend[s],” who offered a stark judgement: “Barack is a tragic figure: so much potential, such critical times, but such a failure to perform…like he is an empty shell…Maybe the flaw is hubris, deep and abiding hubris….” (1065). Garrow quotes the onetime and short-lived Obama backer Dr. Cornel West on how Obama “posed as a progressive and turned out to be a counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a national security presidency…a brown-faced Clinton: another opportunist.”
The subject of Garrow’s meticulous history is a single-minded climber ready to toss others (including family members, lovers, and close friends) aside in service to an all-consuming quest for political power fueled by a belief in his own special “destiny.” (It is clear from Rising Star that Obama was set on a run for the presidency by age twenty-five.) Dozens of former Obama associates interviewed by Garrow report having been impressed, even blown away by the future president as a young man. But many others were put off by Obama’s sense of superiority and arrogance (“full of himself” by the recollection of one Harvard Law classmate [p. 337]) and by his often lecturing, professorial “know it all” presentation – and by his transparent hyper-ambition.
During his time at Harvard Law, fellow students invented “the Obamanometer” – a numerical measure of how long Obama would spend taking up class time with long-winded dialogue with the professor, often while claiming to speak on behalf of his fellow students.
Obama struck many on his way up as far too impressed with his own awesomeness. As one of his fellow black Illinois state senators commented to another veteran legislator as Obama began his eight-year career in the Illinois Senate in 1996, “Can you believe this guy’s some thirty years old [and] he’s already written a book about himself?” (p.600)
Progressives lobbyists found Obama “a disappointing legislator” during his time in the Illinois Senate. According to Al Sharp, executive director of Protestants for the Common Good, state senator Obama was “so very pragmatic” that “he,” in Garrow’s words, “was unwilling to fight to the good fight.” By Garrow’s account. “Legal aid veteran Linda Mills recalled that [state senator] Barack ‘sponsored a number of bills I wrote,’ but ‘I stopped seeking him out as a chief sponsor early on’ because Barack was ‘disengaged’ rather than actively pushing the bills. ‘He was never involved in the legislation,’ and on many days Barack was simply ‘unavailable. Golfing, playing basketball. He was just out to lunch so often’” (p.731)
An Ugly Offer: Money for Silence
I find a different story related in Rising Star just as disturbing. It comes from April of 2008, when then presidential candidate Obama was being compelled by the Hillary Clinton campaign to throw his onetime South Side Chicago “spiritual mentor”
Reverend Jeremiah Wright under the bus because Obama’s association with the fiery Black and left-leaning pulpit master was costing him too many white votes. On April 12, 2008, Obama visited Wright, asking him not to do “any more public speaking until after the November election.” Wright refused. “Barack left empty-handed but before long Wright received an e-mail from Barack’s close friend Eric Whitaker, also a Trinity [church] member, offering Wright $150,000 ‘not to preach at all’ in the months ahead.” (p.1044). Wright refused.
How was that for progressive hope and change?
“A Work of Historical Fiction”
Young Obama tried to beat historians to the punch by writing a deceptive, self-serving account of his own first three and half decades gracing the planet with his “special qualities.” Garrow, to his credit, doesn’t fall for it. Rising Star takes the future president’s 1995 book Dreams From My Father Dreams and some of Obama’s later autobiographical reflections to task for: inventing a deep racial identity drama that never occurred during Obama’s early years in Hawaii, Indonesia, and Occidental College; incorrectly portraying Obama as a “difference-maker” on his high school basketball team; deceptively claiming that Obama had been an angry “thug” during high school; deleting the Community Party background of the Black “old poet” (“Frank,” as in longtime Communist Party activist Frank Davis) who gave Obama advice as a teenager in Honolulu; inaccurately claiming that Obama have received a “full scholarship” to Occidental; misrepresenting himself as a leader in the movement against South African apartheid at Occidental; exaggerating Obama’s involvement in anti-apartheid activism at Columbia University; covering up evidence of Obama’s enrollment in a Columbia course taught by a Marxist academic; absurdly mispresenting the nature of Obama’s work for the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) at the City University of New York; concocting a mythical and supposedly life-changing dialogue with a “black security guard” on Obama’s first trip from New York City to begin community organizing work on the far South Side of Chicago; falsely claiming that Obama converted to Christianity during his early years in Chicago; largely writing Obama’s white mother out of his autobiography, which spilled far more ink on a father (Barack Obama. Sr.) who played little role in his life; painting a “decidedly uncharitable portrait” of Obama’s loving white maternal grandfather (Stanley Dunham) who did so much to raise him; suggesting that Obama’s maternal white grandmother was a racist; unduly downplaying Obama’s supreme enjoyment of his years at Harvard Law School; and coldly condensing his three top pre-marital girlfriends (more on them below) “into a single woman whose appearance in the book was fleeting indeed.” Garrow judges Dreams “a work of historical fiction,” not a serious autobiography or memoir.
The Revenge of Sheila Jager: “His Deep-Seated Need to be Loved and Admired”
Rising Star might almost deserve the sub-title “The Revenge of Sheila Jager.” Like Garrow’s giant and classic 1986 biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rising Star gets very, very personal. Garrow reports the complaints of Obama’s three former girlfriends – Alex McNair, Genevieve Cook, and Sheila Jager. Each one recalls an Obama that was ultimately inaccessible and hopelessly self-involved. Ms. Jager, a partly white Asian-American University of Chicago anthropology graduate student when she met Obama, garners singular attention. She fell into a prolonged and ardent affair with then community organizer Obama during the late 1980s. But her long and tumultuous relationship with him was doomed by the color of her skin. Obama shared the passion but decided he could not marry her because his political ambitions in Chicago required a Black spouse.
Garrow recounts an ugly scene in the summer of 1987. A loud and long dispute developed one day at the Wisconsin summer home of a friend. From the morning onwards, a witness recalled, “they were back and forth, having sex, screaming yelling, having sex, screaming yelling.… That whole afternoon, they went back and forth between having sex and fighting,” with Jager yelling: “That’s wrong! That’s wrong! That’s not a reason.”
Near the end of his colossal volume, Garrow says that “no one alive brought deeper insight into the tragedy of Barack Obama than Sheila Jager.” He reproduces numerous quotations from Jager, now an Oberlin College anthropology professor. As a young woman, she was frustrated by young Obama’s lack of “courage.” Writing to Garrow in August of 2013, Jager saw that cowardice in his excessively “pragmatic,” disengaged, and “compromising” presidency:
“the seeds of his future failings were always present in Chicago. He made a series of calculated decisions when he began to map out his political life at the time and they involved some deep compromises. There is a familiar echo in the language he uses now to talk about the compromises he’s always forced to make and the way he explained his future to me back then, saying in effect I ‘wish’ I could do this, but ‘pragmatism and the reality of the world has forced me to do that.’ From the bailout out to NSA to Egypt, it is always the same. The problem is that ‘pragmatism’ can very much look like what works best for the moment. Hence, the constant criticism that there is no strategic vision behind his decisions. Perhaps this pragmatism and need to just ‘get along in the world’ (by accepting the world as it is instead of trying to change it) stems from his deep-seated need to be loved and admired which has ultimately led him on the path to conformism and not down the path of greatness which I had hoped for him.” (1065)
The italics are Garrow’s. He added emphasis to the entire passage.
Or Maybe He Really Believed All that “Vacuous to Repressive Neoliberal” and “Pragmatism” Stuff
Garrow’s mammoth biography is a tour de force when it comes to personal critique, professional appraisal, and epic research and documentation. His mastery of the smallest details in Obama’s life and career and his ability to place those facts within a narrative that keeps the reader’s attention (no small feat at 1078 pages!) is remarkable. Rising Star falls short, however, on ideological appraisal. In early 1996, the brilliant left Black political scientist Adolph Reed, Jr. captured the stark moral and political limits of what would become the state and then national Obama phenomenon and indeed the Obama presidency. Writing of an unnamed Obama, Reed observed that:
“In Chicago…we’ve gotten a foretaste of the new breed of foundation-hatched black communitarian voices; one of them, a smooth Harvard lawyer with impeccable do-good credentials and vacuous-to-repressive neoliberal politics, has won a state senate seat on a base mainly in the liberal foundation and development worlds. His fundamentally bootstrap line was softened by a patina of the rhetoric of authentic community, talk about meeting in kitchens, small-scale solutions to social problems, and the predictable elevation of process over program – the point where identity politics converges with old-fashioned middle-class reform in favoring form over substance.”
Garrow very incompletely quotes Reed’s reflection only to dismiss it as “an academic’s way of calling Barack an Uncle Tom.” That is an unfortunate judgement. Reed’s assessment was richly born-out by Obama’s subsequent political career. Like his politcio-ideological soul-brothers Bill Clinton and Tony Blair (and perhaps now Emmanuel Macron), Obama’s public life has been a wretched monument to the dark power of the neoliberal corporate-financial and imperial agendas behind the progressive pretense of façade of telegenic and silver-tongued professional class politicos.
Reed’s prescient verdict more than 12 years before Obama became president brings more insight to the Obama tragedy than Jager’s reflection five years into Obama’s presidency. Obama’s nauseating taste for supposedly (and deceptively) non-ideological “get things done” “pragmatism,” “compromise,” and “playing it safe” – for “accepting the world as it is instead of trying to change it” (Jager) – was not simply or merely a personality quirk or psychological flaw. It was also and far more significantly a longstanding way for “liberal” Democratic presidents and other politicos to appear “tough-minded” and stoutly determined to “getting things done” while they subordinate the fake-populist and progressive-sounding values they mouth to get elected to the harsh “deep state” facts of U.S. ruling class, imperial, and “national security” power. A “pragmatic,” supposedly non-ideological concern for policy effectiveness – “what can be accomplished in the real world” – has long given “liberal” presidents a manly way to justify governing in accord with the wishes of the nation’s ruling class and power elite.
Garrow and Jager might want to look at a forgotten political science classic, Bruce Miroff’s Pragmatic Illusions: The Presidential Politics of John F. Kennedy .) After detailing the supposedly progressive Kennedy’s cool-headed, Harvard-minted, and “best and brightest” service to the nation’s reigning corporate, imperial, and racial hierarchies, Miroff explained that:
“Most modern presidents have claimed the title of ‘pragmatist’ for themselves. Richard Nixon was just as concerned as John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson to announce that he was not wedded to dogma, and that his administration would follow a realistic and flexible course. It has chiefly been the liberal presidents, however, who have captured the pragmatic label…For liberal presidents – and for those who have advised them – the essential mark of pragmatism is its ‘tough-mindedness.’ Pragmatism is equated with strength and intellectual and moral strength that can accept a world stripped of illusions and can take the facts unadorned. Committed to liberal objectives, yet free from liberal sentimentality, the pragmatic liberal sees himself as grappling with brute and unpleasant facts of political reality in order to humanize and soften those facts…The great enemy for pragmatic liberals is ideology…An illusory objectivity is one of the pillars of pragmatic ‘tough-mindedness.’ The second pillar is readiness for power. Pragmatists are interested in what works; their prime criterion of value is success…[and] as a believer in concrete results, the pragmatist is ineluctably drawn to power. For it is power that gets things done most easily, that makes things work most successfully.” (Pragmatic Illusions, 283-84, emphasis added).
The classic neoliberal Bill Clinton embraced the pragmatic and non-ideological “get things done” façade for state capitalist and imperialist policy. So did the pioneering neoliberal Jimmy Carter and the great corporate liberals Lyndon Johnson, John F. Kenney and Franklin Roosevelt. Was this really or mainly because they were psychologically wounded? The deeper and more relevant reality is that they functioned atop a Superpower nation-state rule by unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money, empire, and white supremacism. They were educated, socialized, seduced and indoctrinated – to understand in their bones that those de facto dictatorships must remain intact (Roosevelt boasted of having saved the profits system) and that liberal “reform” must always bend to the will of reigning institutions and doctrines of concentrated wealth, class, race, and power. Some or all of them may well have to believe and internalize the purportedly non-ideological ideology of wealth- and power-serving pragmatism. And Obama was either a true believer or one who cynically chose to impersonate one as the ticket to power quite early on.
A Fully Minted Neoliberal Early On
The irony here is that one can consult Rising Star to determine the basic underlying accuracy of Reed’s acerbic description. My foremost revelation from Rising Star is that Obama was fully formed as a fake-progressive neoliberal-capitalist actor well before he ever received his first big money campaign contribution. He’s headed down the same ideological path as the Clintons even before Bill Clinton walks into the Oval Office. Obama’s years in the corporate-funded foundation world, the great ruling and professional class finishing schools Columbia University Harvard Law, and the great neoliberal University of Chicago’s elite Law School were more than sufficient to mint him as a brilliant if “vacuous to repressive neoliberal.”
During his years at Harvard Law, Garrow notes, Obama took said the following at a Turner Broadcasting African American Summit for the 1990s:
“Whenever we blame society for everything, or blame white racism for everything, then inevitably we’re giving away our own power…if we can get start getting beyond some of these old divisions [of race, place, and class] and look at the possibilities of crafting pragmatic, practical strategies that are going to focus on what’s going to make it work and less about whether it fits into one ideological mold or another.”
These were classic neoliberal and ruling class themes.
Along with a healthy dose of market economics, this was the heavily ideological if nominally anti-ideological essence of much of Obama’s intellectual work at Harvard Law, where he and his good friend the former economist Rob Fisher were drawn to the courses of a libertarian professor and wrote oxymoronically about the progressive and democratic potential of “market forces.” Like other ruling class and professional class educational and ideological institutions of “higher education,” Harvard Law was and remains a great schoolhouse of precisely the kind of “pragmatism” which knows that no policies and visions can work that don’t bow to the holy power of the finance-led corporate and imperial state, ruling in the name of the market among other things.
Again, and again across Garrow’s many hundreds of pages on Obama’s community organizing and legislative career one hears about the future president’s classically neoliberal efforts to address poverty and joblessness by increasing the market value of poor and jobless folks’ “human capital” and “skill sets.” Never does one learn of any serious call on his part for the radical and democratic redistribution of wealth and power and the advance of a people’s political economy based on solidarity and the common good, not the profits of the investor class.
The main things Obama needed to add on to fulfill his “destiny” after Harvard Law were a political career in elected office, a great moment of national celebrity (his spectacular Keynote Address to the Democratic National Convention in August of 2004), elite financial sponsorship (including record-setting Wall Street backing in 2007 and 2008), and proper appreciation and articulation of U.S.-imperial Council on Foreign Relations ideology. All of this and more, including no small good fortune (including the awfulness of the George W. Bush administration and the 2007-08 Hillary Clinton campaign), followed and brought us to the great neoliberal “disappointment” that was the Obama presidency.
Curious Deletions: MacFaquhar, Marxists, and the Ruling Class Sponsors
There are some interesting deletions in Rising Star. It is odd that the meticulous Garrow never quotes a remarkable essay published by The New Yorker in the spring of 2007. In early May of that year, six months after Obama had declared his candidacy for the White House, the New Yorker’s Larissa MacFarquhar penned a memorable portrait of Obama titled “The Conciliator: Where is Barack Obama Coming From?” “In his view of history, in his respect for tradition, in his skepticism that the world can be changed any way but very, very slowly,” MacFarquhar wrote after extensive interviews with the candidate, “Obama is deeply conservative. There are moments when he sounds almost Burkean…It’s not just that he thinks revolutions are unlikely: he values continuity and stability for their own sake, sometimes even more than he values change for the good” (emphasis added).
MacFarquhar cited as an example of this reactionary sentiment Obama’s reluctance to embrace single-payer health insurance on the Canadian model, which he told her would “so disruptive that people feel like suddenly what they’ve known for most of their lives is thrown by the wayside.” Obama told MacFarquhar that “we’ve got all these legacy systems in place, and managing the transition, as well as adjusting the culture to a different system, would be difficult to pull off. So we may need a system that’s not so disruptive that people feel like suddenly what they’ve known for most of their lives is thrown by the wayside.”
So what if large popular majorities in the U.S. had long favored the single-payer model? So what if single payer would let people keep the doctors of their choice, only throwing away the protection pay off to the private insurance mafia? So what if “the legacy systems” Obama defended included corporate insurance and pharmaceutical oligopolies that regularly threw millions of American lives by the wayside of market calculation, causing enormous disruptive harm and death for the populace?
Was this personal weakness and cowardice? The deeper reality is that Obama’s “deeply conservative” beliefs reflected an either calculated or heartfelt allegiance to neoliberal “free market” ideals and related pragmatic and “realistic” ruling- and elite professional-class values inculcated and absorbed at Harvard Law, in the corporate-captive foundation world, and through his many contacts in the elite business sector and the foreign policy establishment as he rose in the American System. Along with a bottomless commitment to the long American imperial project, those power-serving beliefs were written all over Obama’s conservative late 2006 campaign book The Audacity of Hope(Obama’s second book and his second book mainly about himself – see my critical review of it on Black Agenda Report in early 2007 here), whose right-wing and imperial content Garrow ignores. They also raised their head in the famous 2004 Democratic Convention Keynote Address (see my critical reflection on that oration at the time here) that did so much to make Obama an overnight national and even global celebrity – another document whose right-leaning ideological nature escapes Garrow’s attention.
Like Obama’s neoliberal and imperial ideology, the many left activists and writers (this reviewer included) who saw through Obama’s progressive pretense and warned others about it early on are basically missing in Rising Star. The list of Left commentators left out is long. It includes Bruce Dixon, Glen Ford, John Pilger, Noam Chomsky. Alexander Cockburn, Margaret Kimberly, Jeffrey St. Clair, Roger Hodge, Pam Martens, Ajamu Baraka, Doug Henwood, Juan Santos, Marc Lamont Hill, John R. MacArthur, and a host of others (Please see the sub-section titled “Insistent Left Warnings” on pages 176-177 in the sixth chapter, titled “We Were Warned,” of my 2010 book The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power [Paradigm, 2014], my second carefully researched Obama book not to make it into Garrow’s endnotes or bibliography).
Also largely missing – the other side of the coin of omission, so to speak – in Garrow’s sprawling acount is the elite corporate and financial class that made record-setting contributions to Obama’s rise with an understanding that Obama was very much on their side. How write a 1000-page plus account of Obama’s rise to power without at least once mentioning that august and unparalleled ruling class figure Robert Rubin, whose nod of approval was critical to Obama’s ascendancy? As Greg Palast noted, Rubin “opened the doors to finance industry vaults for Obama. Extraordinarily for a Democrat, Obama in 2008 raised three times as much from bankers as his Republican opponent.”
Rubin would also serve as a top informal Obama adviser and placed a number of his protégés in high-ranking positions in the Obama administration. Rubin’s Obama appointees included Timothy Geithner (Obama’s first treasury secretary), Peter Orszag (Obama’s first Office of Management and Budget director), and Larry Summers (first chief economic adviser).
Just as odd as his ignoring of MacFarquhar’s May 2007 essay is Garrow’s inattention to a remarkable report from Ken Silverstein’s six months before. “It’s not always clear what Obama’s financial backers want,” the progressive journalist Ken Silverstein noted in a Harpers’ Magazine report titled “Obama, Inc.” in November of 2006, “but it seems safe to conclude that his campaign contributors are not interested merely in clean government and political reform…On condition of anonymity,” Silverstein added, “one Washington lobbyist I spoke with was willing to point out the obvious: that big donors would not be helping out Obama if they didn’t see him as a ‘player.’ The lobbyist added: ‘What’s the dollar value of a starry-eyed idealist?’” Obama’s allegiance to the American business elite was evident from the get go. It was well understood by the K Street insiders that Silverstein interviewed in the fall of 2006.
His “dollar value” to Wall Street would become abundantly clear in early 2009, when he told a frightened group of Wall Street executives that “I’m not here to go after you. I’m protecting you…I’m going to shield you from congressional and public anger.” For the banking elite, who had destroyed untold millions of jobs, there was, as Garrow’s fellow Pulitzer Prize-winner Ron Sukind wrote, “Nothing to worry about. Whereas [President Franklin Delano] Roosevelt had [during the Great Depression] pushed for tough, viciously opposed reforms of Wall Street and famously said ‘I welcome their hate,’ Obama was saying ‘How can I help?’” As one leading banker told Suskind, “The sense of everyone after the meeting was relief. The president had us at a moment of real vulnerability. At that point, he could have ordered us to do just about anything and we would have rolled over. But he didn’t – he mostly wanted to help us out, to quell the mob.”
On Love and Admiration
As noted above, professor Jager told Garrow that the limits of Obama’s presidency stemmed from his longstanding “need to be loved and admired.” But surely that need would have been met to no small degree had Obama (like Roosevelt in 1935 and 1936) governed in at least partial accord with the progressive-sounding rhetoric he campaigned on in 2007 and 2008. Beyond the social, democratic, security and environmental benefits that would have been experienced by millions of Americans and world citizens under an actually progressive Obama presidency, such policy would have been good politics for both Obama and the Democratic Party. It might well have pre-empted the Tea Party rebellion and kept the orange-haired beast Donald Trump – a dodgy neo-fascistic legacy of Obama and the Clintons’ ruling- and professional-class Ivy League elitism – out of the White House. The bigger problem here was Obama’s love and admiration for the nation’s reigning wealth and power elite – or, perhaps, his reasonable calculation that the powers that be held a monopoly on the means of bestowing public love and admiration. Non-conformism to the ruling class carries no small cost in a media and politics culture owned by that class.
The Biggest Omission: Empire
The most glaring thing missing in Rising Star is any understanding of U.S, Senator and presidential candidate Obama’s imperial world view. His brazenly “American exceptionalist” and imperial mindset, straight out of the Council on Foreign Relations, was written all over Obama’s foreign policy speeches and writings (including large sections of The Audacity of Hope) in 2006, 2007, and 2008. I wrote about this at length in the fourth chapter (titled “How Antiwar? Obama, Iraq, and the Audacity of Empire”) in my 2008 book Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics.
This significant omission but it is unsurprising given Garrow’s own apparent enmeshment in the American imperial mindset. Rising Star’s long epilogue includes John McCain-like criticisms of Obama for failing to launch military strikes on Syria and for being too allergic to “the use, or even the threat of force” in global affairs. Garrow even offers a lengthy critical quote on the need for “the next president” to be more “resolute” from the former leading imperialist defense secretary Robert Gates, who Garrow strangely describes as “the weightiest and most widely respected voice of all.”
“Problems Out There with the Situation of African-Americans in Society”
Obama first became something of a celebrity when he became the first Black editor of the Harvard Law Review in February of 1990. “I wouldn’t want people to see my election,” Obama told the Associated Press, “as a symbol that there aren’t problems out there with the situation of African-Americans in society” (Garrow, Rising Star, p. 392). Note the carefully calibrated nature of Obama’s public commentary already at the age of 28: “problems out there with the situation of African-Americans in society” could just as easily refer to alleged Black personal and cultural failure (a persistent white-pleasing theme in the rising star’s political rhetoric) as it could to cultural and/or institutional and societal racism. Note also that while Obama’s election and re-election to the U.S. presidency brought few if any tangible material and policy gains to Black America (whose already terrible economic situation deteriorated significantly during his time in office), it functioned as something like the last nail in the coffin of many whites’ stark reluctance to acknowledge that the nation’s still deeply embedded racism any longer poses real barriers to Black advancement and equality in the U.S. “Are you kidding me?” I’ve heard countless whites say, “we elected a Black president! Stop talking about racism!” Never mind the persistence of deeply embedded racial inequality and oppression at the heart of the nation’s labor and housing markets, credit and investment systems, legal and criminal justice systems, its military and police state, and its educational and media systems – and the dogged tenacity of personal and cultural race prejudice among a considerable part of the white populace. In that and other ways, the tragedy of the Obama years has been greatest of all for those at the bottom of the nation’s steep social and economic wells.
King v. Obama
If I could ask Garrow one question beyond the personal matter of why my own heavily researched and annotated study of (and Left warning on) “rising star” Obama (Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics [Paradigm-Routledge, 2008]) is so egregiously missing in his bibliography and endnotes, it is this: what does Garrow think his previous epic biography subject Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. (who politely refused progressives’ effort to enlist him as a presidential candidate and whose bust sat behind Obama in the Oval Office), would have thought of the career of Garrow’s new epic biography subject, Barack Obama?
As Garrow knows, King in his final years inveighed eloquently against what he called “the triple evils that are interrelated,” essentially capitalism, racism, and militarism-imperialism. King came to the end of his martyred life with the belief that the real faults in American life lay not so much in “men” as in the oppressive institutions and social structures that reigned over them. He wrote that “the radical reconstruction of society itself” was “the real issue to be faced” beyond “superficial” matters. He had no interest, of course, in running for the White House of all things.
Obama took a very different path, one that enlisted him in service both to narcissistic self and to each of the very triple evils (and other ones as well) that King dedicated his life to resisting.
The Obama-King contrast continues into Obama’s post-presidential years. As Garrow showed in Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King. Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (William Morrow, 1986), the great Civil Rights leader and democratic socialist Dr. King sternly refused to cash in on his fame. Now that he out of the White House, Obama, by contrast, is cashing in. He’s raking in millions from the publishing industry and Wall Street and he’s back to his old “hobnobbing” ways with the rich and famous.
The reverend would be 88 years old if he had been blessed with longevity. My guess is that he would be less than pleased at the life and career of the nation’s first technically Black president.
(Paul Street’s latest book is They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014. Courtesy, CounterPunch.org.)