- Shootout Aftermath
- Regulating Marijuana
- Council's Budget
- COMMET Comment
- Remembering 1967
- Battery Man
- Cherry Stories
- Little Dog
- Chapel Vandalized
- Yesterday's Catch
- Small Heroics
- Poor Americans
- Moby Trump
- Great Unraveling
- Ashland Klanners
- Biz Award
- Stern Justice
- Whitesboro Dinner
- Architect v FBI
- My Vietnam
- Reading Party
- Shunning Kaepernick
- Marine "Protected"
A SOUTH COAST READER WRITES: The survivor of the Eureka Hill Road incident (shooter) is reportedly a housing/building contractor by the name John Schmidt. That is what the rumor mill has going around, and the lady (Jacquie) is a dear girl who works at Redwood Coast Medical Services in Gualala, and Point Arena. We are not sure what the decedent did at this point, although he is said to have been a contractor as well. Eureka Hill Road is rampant all the way to the old Point Arena Radar Station with screened pot grows. I have not seen them, but I understand that they can be quite large. Needless to say, it is a sad moment around here. Eureka Hill Road is a spur off of 10 Mile Cutoff Road and Riverside is just north of Eureka Hill Road and turns into 10 Mile Cutoff.
BRINGING GROWERS INTO COMPLIANCE:
An Interview with Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner Tony Linegar
by Jonah Raskin
Tony Linegar has a wealth of experience in two northern California counties where cannabis has long been a major cash crop: Mendocino and Sonoma. Before taking over the reigns as the Agricultural Commissioner for Sonoma in 2012, Linegar served as the Agricultural Commissioner for Mendocino where he witnessed the rapid growth of the cannabis industry. He still remembers the long ago days when Ted Erickson, one of his predecessors in Mendocino, included marijuana in his annual crop report and was chastised for doing so. For Linegar cannabis is a crop and ought to be counted along with other crops. As a society, we’ve come a long way in the last forty years. Or have we? To try to answer that question I sat down with Linegar in his office in Santa Rosa and had a free ranging conversation that moved from crime and climate change to pot and tourism. “People who drink wine also use cannabis,” Linegar told me. “There can be a tourist interface, but we have to be very careful.”
Q: How do you feel about marijuana?
A: Things are changing rapidly. It’s almost surreal. I have learned a tremendous amount in the last year. If I’m going to regulate the marijuana industry in my capacity as Agricultural Commissioner I’d better understand it. I have visited a number of sites. I came away with respect for how highly technological and advanced the industry is, especially when considering that it has been hiding in the shadows.
Q: What troubles you about the industry?
A: There’s the crime. There have been murders in the county that were linked to cannabis. But as I see it the crime is due largely to our collective failure—the state and the Feds—to properly regulate, which led to a black market. Marijuana is so valuable that people are willing to kill for it.
Q: What about environmental issues?
A: I have seen destruction of the environment. That onus is also on us. We need to create a regulatory framework and bring growers into compliance. I worry that we’ve set the bar too high. If so, then we're back where we started.
Q: Are you hopeful about the prospects?
A: We need to get out of the gate green and encourage the spirit in the cannabis industry and in the community that is connected to the earth and the environment. We can farm in harmony with nature. This is a great opportunity. Some marijuana that’s on the market will have to go because of mildew, pesticide and herbicides. The big boys will come. That’s inevitable. But we want to gives local people a five-year head start. There will be room for boutique gardens, like boutique wine.
Q: Do you believe in “reefer madness”?
A: Some call marijuana the evil stepchild in the agricultural world. I believe it should be treated like other crops. These people are farmers. But we don’t want a gold rush and we don’t want to give permits to chop down trees.
Q: What role will the police play in the brave new world of legal recreational weed?
A: We will have to have a strong enforcement arm right from the beginning. There have to be consequences for not getting a permit and following rules and regulations. If people won’t comply we can use the stick and weed out — eliminate — the bad actors. We can also use the carrot and encourage best practices.
Q: Is the county over regulating?
A: Farms are overregulated. I’m a regulator, but I’m trying to be mindful of not over-regulating. There is some truth in farmer talk about there being too much regulation.
Q: What have you suggested to growers in this transitional period?
A: Hire a lawyer and a consultant. Land use is very complex. There are potential pitfalls for developing a property for cannabis use. It’s like peeling away layers of an onion. Growers have to work directly with the Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD), or hire a consultant. Ground water is a big issue. Growers need to vet their property. The zoning needs to be right. There are a lot of consultants floating out there. It’s a lucrative business now.
Q: In your eyes, what’s the future of cannabis in Sonoma County?
A: I think cannabis can have a bright future. Sonoma County is strategically located between big urban populations and remote rural places. Sonoma can be a hub for distribution and manufacturing and farming can continue here. Under the new regulations, farmers will still be able to make a living.
Q: How do you feel about Prop 64, which legalized recreational weed?
A: Prop 64 is imperfect. It has problems; it could be a lot better but it is a bird in the hand. There have been decades of injustice in the marijuana world. When people voted for 64 they voted against injustice.
Q: I don’t see a lot of effective spokesmen and women for the cannabis industry, do you?
A: Growers are not used to being political activists. They are just starting to learn. They haven’t been plugged into the political system, but they're beginning to do a good job interfacing with county regulations.
Q: Will cannabis rival grapes?
A: There are 63,000 acres of grapes in Sonoma. I don’t think we will ever have that much in marijuana.
Q: You have a deep sense of local pride don’t you?
A: Yes. We are — Sonoma is — the last real agricultural county in the Bay Area. We have carved out niches for dairy, eggs, apples and cider. Now with a bit of luck and planning we’ll carve out a niche for cannabis.
Q: And you will have been a part of it.
A: The regulation of marijuana is one of the most important things in my whole career. That’s why I want to get it right.
COUNTY COUNSEL KIT ELLIOTT’S budget summary from last Tuesday’s annual budget review is best delivered in her own words and in her own voice. (Don’t worry, it’s only about six minutes or so.)
Note that Ms. Elliott’s casual unexplained reference to ALDF is the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s successful suit against the County to end the Federal Wildlife program that used poisons to kill supposed predators (plus a goodly number of collateral non-predators) in favor of less toxic predator (i.e., livestock killers) control measures. Also note that more than half of Ms. Elliott’s staff is dedicated to Health and Human Services and most of that is for Child Protective Services legal work. After Ms. Elliott’s summary, Supervisor Dan Gjerde asked what could be done to reduce the apparently high number of prisoner “writs.” Supervisor Gjerde assumed the writs were nothing but “harrassing the jailer,” but Ms. Elliott said they had reduced the number of writs by improving jail policies, meaning that at least some of the prisoner complaints were valid and required policy changes. At the end of the clip Supervisor McCowen seemed to agree that better supervision and more adherence to policies will also help. However, no one asked why so much legal time is being taken by CPS cases or what can be done to reduce that.
THE FOLLOWING is from the comment line on Kym Kemp's Redheaded Blackbelt site. It's similar in specifics and tone to a letter we have from a man presently incarcerated at the Mendocino County Jail. Over the years, we've occasionally heard complaints from arrested persons that the cops have stolen cash found during dope raids. We've never been able to verify these accusations and doubt they were true, except in one case of an accused officer now deceased. Another cop confirmed he was "dirty." But that was years ago.
THE CONFISCATION of children, or the threat of it, by CPS at the behest of raid teams....Well, if true, the tactic is way, way over the line, and if it's happened to you we'd like to hear the particulars.
WHATEVER YOU THINK about this person's complaint, it's certainly true that the County of Mendocino has poisoned its own licensing program by unleashing COMMET on growers in the process of getting themselves legal. The raided addresses were registered with the county's Ag Department. Meanwhile, at the Adanac Ranch…
"The fact is that there is no good reason why the county has to make somebody do a complete application less than a month after the ordinance was finalized and only weeks after the proposed state regulations, that mandate very technical provisions on qualifying…To demand the only legitimate way forward is to make people choose…
How mich money and jewelry did these deputies pocket this time…. Just goes to show… NOBODY Can Trust Mendocino County Sheriff ALLMAN or the Mendocino County Sheriff Department…. .. and definitely not the Sneaky Organization known as Commet or Major Crimes Task Force! Haven’t we all learned our lessons that they will lie, steal and kill! Yeah, go give them your name and address and wait for them to show up, point guns at senior citizens and children, trash and destroy your home and farm, steal your hard earned money, slander you in the press as “destroyers of the environment” while they cut your fuel lines, empty your water tanks, go through your personal property and steal and seize your assets….. bunch of lowlife crooks and thieves make up the MCSO Commet team and Major Crimes Task Force….. donkeys! HOW MUCH LONGER WILL WE ALLOW THIS ARMED GROUP OF THUGS TO STEAL OUR PROPERTY, STEAL OUR MONEY, LIE TO US “IT WAS ANOTHER DEPARTMENT OF THE SHERIFF DEPARTMENT”?… HOW MANY MORE FARMERS WILL BE SHOT BY THIS “ERADICATION TEAM”? How many more people’s lives uprooted by armed aggressive thieves and thugs hiding behind a badge? How many more children will be ripped crying from their mothers arms and taken away by social services to be placed in abusive Mendo County foster parents? …. How much more can the good cannabis farmers take from a government system which has made a business and income by stealing from their neighbors and community to fulfill their wasteful budgets and contracts with their buddies? Enough is Enough, rise up Mendocino Cannabis Community, Take Mendocino County Back from Allman and his lawless band of the Ives and oppressors! The time is now! RISE UP AGAINST THE CLAWS OF REPRESSION And REPUBLICAN CONTROL."
AH, THE SUMMER OF LOVE.
by Judy Bernhard
This year marks 50 years since nineteen 67 and it seems everyone in San Francisco is filled with nostalgia for the Summer of Love. A lot of our cultural institutions are celebrating with hippie themed galas and one of the museums, the deYoung, has mounted an exhibition specifically dedicated to explaining the counterculture esthetic. It feels as though people don’t remember, amid all of the hoopla about fashion and poster art, that there was a political component to the gatherings of the generation that was coming of age in the mid sixties.
I’m not one to spoil anybody’s fun but does anyone remember there was a war going on? The boys I grew up with were being drafted into the army. Some of them died in Vietnam. Some of them came home drug-addicted and scarred for life. For a lot of us, the summer of 1967 wasn’t about high fashion or fine art, it was somewhat grittier than that. The clothes we wore and the style we affected were markers of resistance. We thought we were participating in the beginning of something.
Young men and women wore long hair as a statement against style, against buying into the prevailing culture. Denim jeans and jackets, sometimes enhanced by their wearers with embroidery or other decoration, were a cheap and durable alternative to more fashionable garb. Women wore loose clothing to facilitate going braless. It was a protest against the constriction of undergarments designed to objectify the female form. Bra burning was the birth of feminist activism.
Then there’s the matter of smoking dope. Fifty years ago it was weak and the effects wore off quickly. Our lungs were young, we were free of anxiety and eager to share what we had. Now it’s hard to feel nostalgic about the scent of marijuana when you can smell it on the clothes of every third person you pass on the street. If you believe the alternative press in San Francisco, you’d think practically everyone in town is buying weed from dispensaries. Its effect is deeper and more long lasting than it used to be. An Assistant DA told me the police here have stopped arresting people for possession of small amounts of marijuana because it’s impossible to prosecute offenders. No local jury will convict someone for possession so for all intents and purposes, smoking dope is legal in San Francisco. Whether or not that’s a good thing, is not the point. If it’s no longer illegal, it’s not a marker of resistance.
There is one legacy of the sixties that appears to be a good thing. People of all ages seem to be taking to the streets. Now there are Not My President marches and women’s marches and marches for science. There are marches for immigrants rights and gay rights and #Black Lives Matter and both sides of the abortion issue. With the notable exception of women wearing pink hats in solidarity with one another, none of these causes seem to demand any particular form of dress. Well, there is a new strain of anti-fascists who dress in black and wear kerchiefs over the bottom half of their faces but its hardly likely this practice will come into fashion.
I suppose my meditation on all of the above is born of my disquiet over the fact that the people celebrating the summer of 1967 don’t seem to have gotten it quite right. Last week I was at a gathering of about thirty people and a woman was describing the museum’s Summer of Love exhibit. I looked around the room and I saw some of the people there were too young to have experienced it and I knew some of them came to San Francisco well after that time so I asked the question that was on my mind. “How many of you were in San Francisco during the Summer of Love?”
It turned out I was the only one.
ACEVEDO: GUILTY OF BATTERY
UKIAH, Wed., June 7. -- A Mendocino County Superior Court jury returned from its deliberations this afternoon with a guilty verdict against Jose Luiz Leon Acevedo, age 46, of Willits. Defendant Acevedo was found guilty by jury of battery, a misdemeanor. Battery is the unlawful application force on another person.
Once the jury was thanked and excused, the defendant was sentenced to a term of 36 months on summary probation. Terms of that probation included an order that the defendant serve thirty (30) days in the county jail, that he enroll in and complete eight (8) anger management counseling classes, that he pay the standard fines and fees, and that he obey all laws. As with every defendant convicted of a misdemeanor battery, Acevedo is now prohibited by law from possessing firearms and ammunition for the next ten (10) years.
The attorney who presented the People's evidence and argued the circumstances and law to the jury is Deputy District Attorney Brian Morimune. The investigating law enforcement agency was the Willits Police Department.
THE SWEET LIFE: Cherry Stories from Butler Ranch
When: Sunday June 25, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Where: Gallery Bookshop
Information: 707.272.8305 or 937.2665
On Sunday June 25 at 4 p.m., Gallery Bookshop will host a special event for “The Sweet Life: Cherry Stories from Butler Ranch.” Storytellers featured in the book will share experiences of George and Ella Butler and their incomparable u-pick cherry ranch on Boonville-Ukiah Road. Editor and publisher Dot Brovarney will introduce the program, which will open with song. Coastal singer-songwriter Sue Nagle, who calls herself “a major forager at Butler Ranch,” will perform her “Ode to George Butler.” Mary Buckley, also a singer-songwriter, will lead the audience in her song, “I Love My Pie.” Graphic designer Kiersten Hanna of Braggadoon will talk about her approach to the book. Audience members will be invited to recount their memories of this unique and wonderful Mendocino County place. For further information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call Landcestry at 707.272.8305, or contact the bookstore at 707.937.2665.
(Landcestry, P.O. Box 1005 Ukiah, CA 95482, www.Landcestry.com.)
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “Everything screeches to a halt around here when the ball game is on. I asked these people if I could watch the Warriors-Cavs, too, and they said, ‘No, we need you on the news desk while we watch. Dogs don't do ball games anyhow. Don't go slacker on us!’ ”
SEA RANCH CHAPEL VANDALIZED FOR 'POSTCARD MONEY'
Dear Sea Ranch Chapel Followers;
The Sea Ranch Chapel was the gift of two Sea Ranch residents who wished to offer a public, non-denominational sanctuary for prayer, meditation and spiritual renewal. It was their hope that all who entered would find a measure of peace surrounded by art and purpose, beauty and inspiration.
You may have heard that the Sea Ranch Chapel was recently vandalized with the shattering of the stained glass in one of the doors. Fortunately, a stained glass artist who has often worked with the Chapel’s designer, James Hubbell, is available to fix the door. He can confer with Mr. Hubbell as needed and will use the saved chards to guide him in re-creating the destroyed stained glass door.
A small group of committed volunteers make up the Chapel Foundation Board, which acts as steward of the Chapel, ensuring the proper maintenance and preservation of this jewel of the Sea Ranch. In addition to the door, we also need to replace the badly weathered sign at the entrance to the Chapel grounds. The cost of these repairs is nearly $4,000 which, since not covered by insurance, places a tremendous strain on the Chapel’s finances.
The Sea Ranch Chapel Foundation, a 501 © (3) non-profit organization (tax exempt number 33-0225425), welcomes your contributions for these repairs.
Donations may be sent to:
The Sea Ranch Chapel Foundation
PO Box 259
The Sea Ranch, CA 95497.
We thank you so very much.
Any questions that you may have can be directed to Marcia.email@example.com
CATCH OF THE DAY, June 9, 2017
ZACHARY BRINT, Ukiah. Court order violation, failure to appear.
KENNETH DEWITT JR., Fort Bragg. Parole violation.
ANDREW FABELA, Ukiah. Resisting, probation revocation.
RYAN FERTADO, Hopland. Under influence.
ARNOLD GAHM, Ukiah. Mandatory supervision sentence.
JUAN GARIBAY-VAZQUEZ, Ukiah. Unspecified offense.
AARON MCIVOR, Willits. Pot possession for sale.
NATALIA OWEN, San Francisco/Ukiah. Failure to appear.
CAMERON RICHMOND, Ukiah. Under influence, controlled substance.
SAMUEL SANCHEZ, Ukiah. Drunk in public. (Frequent Flyer)
THOMAS SANDERS, Ukiah. Drunk in public, trespassing. (Frequent Flyer)
CRYSTAL WILLIAMS, Redwood Valley. Criminal threats.
DON WILTSE, Laytonville. Probation revocation.
RYAN YOUNG, Willits. Vehicle theft, controlled substance, paraphernalia.
by Trish Beverley
U.S./Mexico Border, Calexico/Mexicali, August, 1968
U.S. Peace Corps Training Field Trip. Mission: Gather information re: needs of residents in assigned barrio. Travel in teams via public transport, interviewing residents, observing conditions, evaluating living conditions of residents.
Who needs a team? As a Sturdy American, I’ll do it myself. Easy border crossing, no wall, no barriers.
So, off I go, 21 yrs. old, fresh from June, 1968 riots in Chicago. I feel safer here, despite my big red Irish nose and extra 6” height. My first time out of the U.S., except for a Detroit/Toronto weekend trip.
Climbing off the bus, onto the dirt street, tin-roofed, low-door, barred-windows neighborhood. I wander through narrow streets…no dogs, no cars, just HOT SUN.
I’m dizzy. Feel faint. Even my P.C. clipboard feels heavy. “What am I doing here?”
A voice. “Que haces aqui?” Indeed.
“Vente aqui, mijita. Hay tanto calor.”
A tiny old woman beckons to me from the shade of her house. I enter the single room, where a pallet on the floor and small votive altar are the only visible furnishings. Dark, cool. I try to explain what I’m doing there.
“Calmete.” She points to the pallet/bed. Offers me a drink of water. I lie down, sleep briefly.
I feel safe. No longer dizzy, my broken Spanish offers a poor explanation of my mission.
“Go back to your friends. Stay safe.”
ONE OF THE ASPECTS of my own poetry I like best is the presence of people who don't seem to make it into other people's poems..... Nothing epic, just the small heroics of getting through the day when the day doesn't give a shit, getting through the world with as much dignity as you can pull together from the tiny resources left to you.
— Philip Levine
PRESIDENT TRUMP’S FIRST FEDERAL BUDGET PROPOSAL, unveiled in March, was a direct assault on the lives of millions of Americans. By sharply cutting or eliminating essential social programs to help pay for a dramatic increase in military spending, it would likely push many people into poverty and have damaging effects on many others who usually manage to stay above the official poverty line. The ten-year budget proposal Trump made public in late May is far harsher and calls for cutting hundreds of billions of dollars from anti-poverty programs like Medicaid, food stamps, and child insurance programs.
The extent to which changes in the job market have already led to unstable earnings for low- and even middle-income families is not well understood, in part because measures of poverty are inadequate. Meanwhile, too little attention is being paid to new analyses showing that people of all racial and ethnic groups are losing confidence in the core American principle that hard work is a means to upward mobility. This will have long-term economic costs as low-income Americans increasingly see few benefits of education or hard work for themselves and their children.
The most widely followed indicator of poverty in the US is the official poverty measure (OPM), published by the Census Bureau once a year. In 2015, the last year for which data are available, 43.1 million people—13.5 percent of the population—were considered to be in poverty, defined as falling below an annual income threshold of $24,257 for a family of four. The poverty rate has been as low as 11.1 percent, in the 1970s; it rose under Ronald Reagan to approximately 15 percent and then fell to about 13 percent before rising again, then fell again under Bill Clinton to 11.3 percent before rising in the 2000s. But the OPM is a deficient measure in almost every way. It tells the public little about how materially deprived the poor are, how much income they actually have, how reduced their children’s chances are of developing skills for climbing into the middle class, or, most important, how many truly poor there are in America.
(Jeff Madrick, New York Review of Books)
THE REPEAL OF GLASS-STEAGALL has turned the United States into an unstable economic, political, and social system. We have a situation in which millions of Americans who have lost full time employment with benefits to jobs offshoring, whose lower income employment in part time and contract employment leaves them no discretionary income after payment of interest and fees to the financial system (insurance on home and car, health insurance, credit card interest, car payment interest, student loan interest, home mortgage interest, bank charges for insufficient minimum balance, etc.), are on the hook for bailing out financial institutions that make foolish and risky investments. (Paul Craig Roberts)
by James Kunstler
He breached out of the horse latitudes in the Great Sea of Politics last spring and destroyed all the lesser whales with his mighty flukes, but now the Democratic Pequod, with its diverse and inclusive crew has vowed to chase him to the ends of the earth until he spouts black blood and rolls dead out.
It’s Moby Trump! Skin your eyes for him men (and women, and intersectional non-binary zhes, theys, and hirs)! Do ye see a Bitcoin nailed to yonder mast? It goes to ye who raises me that whale of white privilege!
Who is Ahab in this story? Why The New York Times, of course. Such is the vastness of its pious obsession with the cosmic malignity of Moby Trump, who chomped off Ahab’s limb — fondly known as Hillary — the last time the Pequod set sail. With Jim Comey as Starbuck, the ever-upright Quaker mate, cool, aloof, marinated in rectitude, yet deadly with his lance.
And so the great American tragedy plays out on C-Span.
Remember, though, that in the original tale penned by the loser (never made a buck) Herman Melville, the white whale sank the Pequod in a final, desperate, whorl of vengeance, while Ahab drowned entwined in his own harpoon lines, pinned upon the very hump of his inscrutable quarry. And I alone am left to tell thee….
So much for literary conceits — and hat tip to Bob Dylan for reminding us, in his just released Nobel valedictory, how much the white whale should mean to us. In this bleak and tawdry age of content-less Kardashian trash, there really are latent cosmic storylines, and this saga of Moby Trump is a tragedy that the Republic perhaps can’t bear to hear: exactly how we destroyed ourselves.
The question is, what will remain of the American polity once the mighty Trump is harpooned, flensed, and boiled down to his essential oils? A great evil vacuum, I predict, rather like Melville’s fabled Norway maelstrom. And within it, everything and everyone in the Deep State will be revealed as hollow and ghostlike, mere revenants of our beloved institutions, including the rule of law.
Impeachment is something that hovers just a bit above and beside the law, founded, as it is, on the vague notion of high crimes and misdemeanors — which can mean anything, really, to parties so determined to wield it. The blundering Trump expressed a hope that a dodgy FBI investigation against General Flynn for conversing with the Russian ambassador (really, he talked with an envoy from a foreign land?) might be laid aside. Well, that could just do the trick, according to Jeffrey Toobin of CNN, legal mouthpiece for “the Resistance.”
I confess that I never considered Mr. Trump — or as I’m fond of calling him, the Golden Golem of Greatness — a horse that was going to finish. I predicted after the election that he would be removed from office by hook or by crook inside of a few months. While I do not align with his antagonists, I consider him unfit for the job he won in an ignominious election against a repulsive opponent. He appears simply to not know what he is doing, and that’s pretty scary at this moment in history when, apparently unbeknownst to purveyors of “news,” and the countless factotums of government — from the larval agency clerks to the preening poobahs of congress to the scheming technocrat overlords of the intel matrix — the nation is poised at the rim of a financial clusterfuck that will make the fall of the Roman Empire look like a small business bankruptcy.
In the meantime, watch as a toxic political tide sweeps away the foundations of a two-hundred-odd year experiment in civil order. Six months from now, nobody will trust anyone or anything, and we may easily see a great deal of kinetic lashing out against each other in the ringing, raging confusion of the political vortex we’ve gleefully ventured into.
(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/JamesHowardKunstler)
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
You know, the United States took a long time to be united. I think it will take a while to break itself up. A kind of Manifest Destiny in reverse. So, maybe what we’ll see is a “great unraveling” of the country, as states and territories, and alliances of states and territories, dribble & melt away slowly over time, in an inverse relationship to federal power.
For most people, Washington DC is a long, long way away. It certainly is for me and for my neighbors here in northern Minnesota. The national capitol is a kind of a fuzzy idea. It exists out there somewhere. It exudes powers that we occasionally see on a periphery & generally an indirect way. However, if it went away, how much would we really notice, or care? I don’t know. Perhaps people will look towards regional capitals, particularly if the infrastructure falls apart.
KLAN MARCH IN ASHLAND, OREGON, 1922
ASSEMBLYMEMBER JIM WOOD RECOGNIZES NORTH COAST BREWING COMPANY AS SMALL BUSINESS OF THE YEAR which is kinda like getting a trophy for being the tallest guy in Covelo.
SACRAMENTO— Today Assemblymember Jim Wood is presenting an award to North Coast Brewing Company on California Small Business Day™ which recognizes the contributions small business makes to California.
“I have the challenge of selecting a small business every year from many qualified North Coast businesses throughout the 2nd Assembly District,” said Wood, “and the North Coast Brewing Company has some impressive qualifications.”
The North Coast Brewing Company is the 47th largest craft brewery in the country and is regularly recognized for the quality of its beers, having won over 100 awards in U.S. and international competitions.
Three partners including company President, Mark Ruedrich, founded North Coast Brewing Co. in 1988 in the coastal Mendocino town of Fort Bragg. Co-owner Doug Moody and four other key staff have been with NCBC for more than 20 years.
"We are proud to receive Assemblymember Wood's recognition for our environmental initiatives and contributions to our region's economy,” said Ruedrich. At North Coast Brewing Company, we have always felt that a small business in a small town can play a big role in making a positive impact on our community and beyond."
“One of the many features that stand out for me,” said Assemblymember Jim Wood, “is their environmental stewardship. We all know how beautiful the North Coast is and when I hear that a business takes extra steps to protect the environment, I’m all in!”
In addition to environmental stewardship, North Coast Brewing Co. is one of 1,500 businesses certified as a B Corp, which recognizes the company’s commitment to social and environmental ethics, transparency and accountability. This means that the company has met the rigorous standards that measure a company’s impact on its employees, suppliers, community and the environment.
North Coast Brewing also has a strong commitment to social responsibility. They support more than 100 local community organizations and give a portion of sales to support music education and ocean mammal research and rescue. Wood added, “How can you argue with their mission – ‘Make the world a better place, one pint at a time.’”
(Assemblymember Jim Wood (D- Healdsburg) represents the 2nd Assembly District, which includes all of Del Norte, Trinity, Humboldt and Mendocino counties, plus northern and coastal Sonoma County, including the northern half of Santa Rosa.)
SO FAR THEY HAD SHOT EVERY ONE they had questioned. The questioners had that beautiful detachment and devotion to stern justice of men dealing in death without being in any danger of it.
— Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
WHITESBORO GRANGE SPAGHETTI DINNER SATURDAY
A traditional SPAGHETTI DINNER will be held at the Whitesboro Grange on Saturday, June 10th from 4-7 p.m. On the menu are salad, spaghetti with Bob Canclini’s famous sauce (meat or vegetarian), garlic bread, beverage and homemade pie or cake for dessert. Adults $8, age 6-12 half price, children under 6 eat FREE. The community and public are invited for a great meal and gathering. Whitesboro Grange is located 1.5 miles east on Navarro Ridge. Watch for signs just south of the Albion Bridge.
THE ARCHITECT VS. THE FBI: FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT AT 150
by Jeffrey St. Clair
Frank Lloyd Wright once boasted that he didn’t design his buildings to last for more than a century. It’s not something you hear from many architects. But that doesn’t mean Wright was being humble. Indeed, there’s a hefty element of hubris to this admission. With Wright, you always get the sense that the conception, as realized in his beautiful drawings, was more important than the structures themselves.
Then again it was true. While most of Wright’s homes have stood up pretty well over the years, a few of his better designs began to crack and crumble soon after they were erected. Usually, this was a result of Wright trying to build on the cheap, often by using local sand as a source for the reinforced concrete that became a signature of his later buildings, such as La Miniatura, the house in the Hollywood Hills that looks like a compact Mayan temple. (Of course, it took the giant temples of Tikal 600 years to acquire the characteristics of a ruin and La Miniatura only a decade.)
It’s also an idea that Wright swiped from the Japanese, whose traditional houses were temporal structures, built to last for only for a few years. Characteristically, Wright didn’t credit them, though he did admit to a fondness for Japanese art, especially the woodblock prints of Hiroshige and Hokusai.
More fundamentally, Wright held to the theory that a house should be designed to reflect the specific needs and personality of its occupants. It was a tenet of his notion of “organic architecture”. According to this mode of thinking, there was no reason for a building to outlive its owners. Houses should be constructed to function well for forty years or so and then torn down to make way for new structures for new owners.
This was a way to keep architecture moving forward, to keep on, as Wright said, “breaking out of the box”. It was also an attitude that may have grown out of some his personal peeves. Wright hated the English and described most of their architecture (Edwin Lutyens, the Walter Scott of English architecture–was a notable exception) as monuments to British imperialism. He so thoroughly despised the old Victorians that loomed near his house in Oak Park, Illinois that he built a wall around his home and studio and designed that house’s curious windows so that he wouldn’t have to look at the hulking outlines of the older structures.
Even so, Wright spent most of his first 20 years as an architect drafting up homes as sturdy and immutable as anything conjured up by Antonio Palladio or Christopher Wren. The justly famous prairie designs of the early 1900s weren’t houses so much as striking horizontal mansions for millionaires, equipped with parlors, music rooms and discreetly hidden quarters for servants.
These days, of course, the super-rich couldn’t care less about Wright’s houses, except as they are portrayed in coffee table books, and they cringe at the prospect of actually living in them. It’s mega-square footage and techno-wiring that matters now. Wright’s houses (even the big ones such as Hollyhock House and the Frank Thomas House) are too small to contain the accumulated trappings of today’s millionaires. And they are downright impossible to re-decorate, intentionally so, since Wright didn’t trust anyone’s taste over his own. Most of his houses didn’t even have closets, where would all the shoes go? Plus people (often of the most noisome disposition) are always showing up at the door wanting a peek at the structure. Much better to buy up the land, then hold the house for ransom with a wrecking ball and wait for a buy out.
That’s exactly what happened to the Gordon house, the only structure Wright designed for construction in Oregon. Wright drafted plans for the house in 1957 and it was constructed on a bend in the Willamette River near Wilsonville in 1963, four years after his death, for Conrad and Evelyn Gordon. After the Gordons died, the house fell into disrepair following the predictable familial spat over whether or not to subdivide the homestead.
In 1999, the property was bought by David Smith for $1.1 million dollars. Smith had no plans to live in the house, a t-shaped two-storied structure made of cinderblocks and Oregon cedar. Instead, he announced his intention to bulldoze it and build on its grave a sprawling mansion to rival the other executive monstrosities that line the Willamette River these days. Apparently, Smith and his wife Carey had no idea who Wright was and didn’t much give a damn after they found out. They had good reason to be smug. Within the past couple of years, the Portland area (supposedly home to the most progressive zoning and historical preservation laws on the continent) has seen houses by three of its most notable local architects, John Yeon, Walter Gordon and Pietro Belluschi destroyed, with barely a squawk of protest.
But Yeon–Oregon’s version of California’s Bernard Maybeck, doesn’t’ enjoy Wright’s cult following and once word leaked about the Smith’s plans, an international crusade was launched to save the structure. It is a testament to the power of the Wright name and the influence of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy that not one of the remaining 350 structures designed by Wright has been demolished in the last 12 years.
The Smiths offered to give the house to anyone who’d take it (they weren’t keen to pay for the demolition), as long as they removed it within 105 days or they’d flatten it themselves. Ultimately the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and the Oregon Chapter of the Institute of American Architects stepped forward to claim the house. It was dismantled, moved to a botanical garden 30 miles away in the tourist town of Silverton and reassembled, under the supervision of architect Burton Goodrich, who apprenticed with Wright in the 1950s. The Smith’s walked away with a nice tax deduction and a shiny new McMansion looming over the Willamette.
Wright would surely be bemused at the effort and expense that has gone into saving his buildings from the wrecking ball. After all, the Gordon House was one of his “low-cost” Usonian homes and was built for less than $10,000. Before it was over, the project ended up costing more than $1.2 million to relocate and restore the house. This is architecture as a kind of cultural fetish object.
A half-century after his death, Frank Lloyd Wright remains something of a brand name. And it’s been that way since nearly the beginning of his career. Brendan Gill, writing in Many Masks: a Life of Frank Lloyd Wright, suggests that many of Wright’s clients didn’t want a Wrightian solution to their architectural needs so much as they simply craved the Wright name attached to their house, thus inaugurating the birth of name brand architecture. During the early days of Wright’s fame, there’s little doubt that his older contemporaries, Daniel “Uncle Dan” Burnham, John Wellborn Root and Louis Sullivan, were equally, if not more, accomplished. But, among his many other talents, Wright was a genius at the game of self-promotion. He was the first architect as celebrity.
Wright was both a Utopian and a narcissist. He could jive talk his way through almost any crisis and there were many of them, usually of a financial nature. Wright was especially adept at snowing corporate titans, such as Herbert “Hib” Johnson, CEO of the Johnson Wax.
The Wright style with CEO’s was unique, a full-frontal assault more than pandering. “He insulted me about everything,” Johnson said of his first encounter with Wright. “And I insulted him. But he did a better job. I showed him pictures of the old office, and he said it was awful. He had a Lincoln-Zephyr, and I had one, it was the only thing we agreed on. On all other matters we were at each other’s throats. If a guy can talk like that, he must have something.”
Although they became very close friends, Wright didn’t trust Johnson to present his plans before the Johnson Wax board. Hib Johnson agreed to let Wright attend the meeting, but warned him: “Please, Frank, don’t scold me in front of my own board of directors.”
Like most narcissists, Wright was an unrepentant mamma’s boy, pampered and coddled by an attentive mother who told him he
was a genius when he was three years old. Anna Lloyd-Jones Wright trained her son to be an architect almost from the crib, giving him the famous Freobel blocks that he continued to play with his entire life. Indeed, the floating planes of the Usonian designs seem directly traceable to simple structures made from wooden blocks that Wright would assemble in a matter of seconds on his desk to dazzle prospective clients.
The crypto-fascist Philip Johnson famously dismissed Wright as the greatest architect of the 19th Century. [Perhaps, architects who build glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.] There’s a certain grain of truth about this, though not, certainly, in the sense that Johnson, who embodied the worst strains of modernism (and post-modernism), meant to convey.
Wright was a utopian, in the grand romantic tradition. He was grounded in Rousseau and often let slip that his favorite poets were Walt Whitman and the dreamy Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Along with fellow poet (and snitch) Robert Southey, Coleridge cooked up an idea for a utopian community in western Pennsylvania they called, somewhat clumsily for two poets capable of stunning lyricism, the Pantisocracy. They were going to pay for the land on the proceeds of a long poem chronicling the life and death of Robespierre. But the plan ultimately fell apart over violent disagreements between the two on sexual freedom (which Coleridge advocated) and slavery (which Coleridge abhorred). Interestingly, the Pantisocracy, charted out only on maps in Coleridge’s house in Keswick, was to have been located not far from where Wright built his most famous house, Fallingwater.
Wright also pored over Robert Owen’s experiments in socialist communities, most notably in New Harmony, Indiana, where, as fate would have it, Wright’s rival Johnson later built his open-aired church shaped like death’s cap mushroom. But the class divisions and authoritarianism of Owens’ community proved anathema to Wright’s innate egalitarianism. He was more drawn to the Modern Times commune in Brentwood on Long Island, established in 1851 by the American anarchist Josiah Warren. Among other things, Warren’s community was organized on the principles of “no police” and “free love”, earning it the unyielding animosity of the snobs of New England who disgustedly referred to it as the “Sodom of the Pine Barrens.”
The early half of the 19th century was a time of incredible optimism and radicalism in the United States. In the 1840s, there were 100,000 people living in more than 150 socialist/utopian communities across the country. “Those towns stood for everything eccentric: for abolition, short skirts, whole-wheat bread, hypnotism, phonetic spelling, phrenology, free love and the common ownership of property,” wrote the journalist Helen Beal Woodward in 1945 article on utopian communities. The Civil War largely put an end to all that, but the utopian spirit continued to thrive after the war, particularly in the prairie states, through the rise of the populist parties and the Wisconsin progressives.
But it was good old Rousseau, perhaps more than anyone else, who seems to have shaped Wright’s thinking the most. In one of his notebooks, Wright highlighted this passage from Emile: “Men are not made to be crowded together in ant hills, but scattered over the earth to till it.” Throw in a free car (Wright preferred fast ones, such as Jaguars) and you’ve got the basis of Wright’s utopian community, Broad Acre City.
Broad Acre City wasn’t a design for a single community, as much as a kind of organic zoning plan for the entire country: a kind of motor-age update of Jefferson’s vision of rural America. Wright believed each American family should be entitled to an acre of land and a car. The property lines and building sites would conform to the contours of the landscape, not the rigid grid system proposed by Jefferson and his followers and enacted in gthe famous survey whose consequences can be seen from any plane flying over the plains states. There would also be a pattern of greenspaces, community gardens, walking trails, parks and wildlands, concepts that he adapted from the English garden cities designed by William Morris . Wright’s idea was that each town would be self-sufficient, with growth limited by available water supplies and arable land.
It wasn’t until the 1910s that Wright began to think seriously about designing low-cost housing for working class people. But World War I and then the depression intervened. Then followed a real dry spell. Between 1928 and 1935, only two structures designed by Wright (other than his own house and studio at Taliesin) were constructed.
Then in 1935 Wright received a visit from Herbert Jacobs and his wife Katherine. Jacobs was a columnist with the Madison Capital Times, the city’s most progressive newspaper. He was an admirer of Wright’s work and wanted the great man to design their house. The problem was Jacobs was far from wealthy. Wright had little else on his plate and agreed to design a house that would cost $5,500, including his customary 10 percent fee. He called the design: Usonian.
What does Usonian mean? Who knows? Some suggest that Wright came up with the name during his first trip to Europe in 1910, when there was some discussion about referring to the USA as “Usona” in order to distinguish it from the new Union of South Africa. (In those days, as for much of the century, it’s easy to see how the two nations could be confused.) Wright once said he took the name from Samuel Butler’s utopian novel Erewhon. But no one’s been able to track it down there. (I did a word search of the online edition of Erewhon and couldn’t find it.) Most likely it was a joke. After all, read in a mirror the title of Butler’s novel is Nowhere.
Even so what Wright produced was little short of a revolution in American architecture: a beautiful structure, efficiently designed to sit on an odd (and cheap) lot, at a price affordable for lower income families. But the Jacobs House, and the dozens of Usonian designs that would follow, did more than that. It was truly one of the first environmentally-conscious designs, utilizing passive solar heating, natural cooling and lighting with his signature clerestory windows, native materials, radiant floor heating, and L-shaped floorplan that anchored the house around a garden terrace.
The Jacobs house was an immediate hit in Madison, nearly as popular an attraction as the Johnson Wax Building, which was under construction at the same time further east, in Racine. On weekends so many people showed up at the door, the Jacobs began selling sold tickets to tour their new house. At fifty cents a pop, they quickly recaptured enough money to pay Wright’s fee.
Over the next 30 years, Wright produced hundreds of Usonian designs, never wavering far from the original concept. “We can never make the living room big enough, the fireplace important enough, or the sense of relationship between exterior, interior and environment close enough, or get enough of these good things I’ve just mentioned,” Wright wrote in a 1948 issue of Architectural Forum. “A Usonian house is always hungry for the ground, lives by it, becoming an integral feature of it.”
The Usonian homes inspired great loyalty in their original owners. In 1975, John Sergeant did an inventory of the homes and found that over 50 percent were still owned by the original families, more than 35 years after construction. The same thing can’t be said for his larger projects. The beautiful Robey House, near the University of Chicago, was inhabited for less than a full year, while Fallingwater served as little more than a weekend retreat.
So what happened? Why didn’t the Usonian design take off? Why are we left only with the barest elements of the design, the cookie-cutter ranch houses that came to dominate the lots of suburban America?
There’s no simple explanation. But one thing is clear. Wright’s plans to revolutionize the American residential living space ran afoul of interests of the federal government. Think about this: in his 70-year career Wright didn’t win one contract for a federal building. Not even during the heyday of the New Deal.
It all came down to politics. Wright’s politics were vastly more complicated and honorable than that embodied by Howard Roark, Ayn Rand’s self-serving portrait of Wright in her novel The Fountainhead. Sure there was a libertarian strain to Wright, which Rand seized on and distorted to her own perverse ends. But he also was drawn to the prairie populism espoused by the likes of the great Ignatius Donnelly. It’s this version of Wright that makes an appearance in John dos Passos’ USA trilogy.
Wright was a pacifist and his i outright opposition to war cost him government commissions, the great lifeline of the professional architect, especially during the Depression and World War II. Thus it’s no accident that Wright was down and out most of his career. The high points came at the beginning and the end. He made more than 50 percent of his designs after he turned 70, and these weren’t hack work, but some of the most innovative plans of any architect then working.
John Sergeant, in his excellent book on Wright’s Usonian houses, argues that there’s a mutual admiration between Wright and the noted anarchist, Peter Kropotkin. In 1899, Kropotkin moved to Chicago, living in the Hull House commune, set up by radical social reformer Jane Addams, where Wright often lectured, including a reading of his famous essay the “Arts and Crafts Machine.”
But, in those crucial decades of the 20s and 30s, Wright’s political views seemed to align most snugly with Wisconsin progressives, as personified by the LaFollettes. In fact, Philip LaFollette served as Wright’s attorney and sat on the board of Wright’s corporation.
None of this escaped the attention of the authorities. From World War I to his final days, Wright found himself the subject of a campaign of surveillance, harassment and intimidation by the federal government. In 1941, 26 members of Wright’s Taliesin fellowship signed a petition objecting to the draft and calling the war effort futile and immoral. The draft board sent the letter to the FBI, where it immediately came to the attention of J. Edgar Hoover, who already loathed Wright.
Twice Hoover himself demanded that the Justice Department bring sedition charges against Wright. He was rebuffed both times by the attorney general, but, typically, that only drove Hoover to expand the surveillance and harassment by his goons.
But, as a review of Wright’s FBI file reveals, the Fed’s interest in the architect extended far beyond his pacifism. Hoover’s men recorded his dalliances with the Wobblies, his continuing attempts to combat the US government’s dehumanization of the Japanese during and after the war, his rabble-rousing speeches on college campuses, his work for international socialists and third world governments, including Iraq, and his rather unorthodox views on sexual relations (the Feds noted that Wright seemed to have a particular obsession with Marlene Dietrich).
It could be more sinister than ironic, then, that Carter H. Manny, one of Wright’s apprentices at Taliesin West during the years when the architect and his cohorts were under the most intense scrutiny by the Feds, would go on to design the FBI headquarters (1963). The building, as conceived by Manny, exudes a bureaucratic brutalism that is far removed from anything that ever came off Wright’s pen. Unlike most Taliesin fellows, Manny spent less than a year under the Master’s tutelage, instead of the normal three. Some Wright devotees believe his tenure there had a more nefarious purpose.
The FBI wasn’t the only federal agency giving Wright a hard time. Indeed, Hoover’s snoops were only a minor irritant compared to the real damage that was done by the Federal Housing Authority, which routinely denied financing to Wright’s projects. There’s no surer way to crush the career of an architect, particularly one trying to revolutionize the housing of working class people, than to cut off his clients’ access to mortgages.
The Federal Home Loan Association also refused to underwrite mortgages for Wright’s houses, often citing Wright’s signature flat roofs as a lending code violation. Here’s a paragraph from one of the rejection letters: “The walls will not support the roof; floor heating is impractical; the unusual design makes subsequent sales a hazard.” All bullshit, of course. But if there’s anyway to kill architecture for working class people, it’s to deny them loans.
A disgusted Wright wrote in his autobiography that the federal government had “repudiated” his Usonian designs. In truth, it wasn’t so much repudiation as flat-out sabotage. No paper trail has yet been discovered linking the FBI’s harassment of Wright with the FHA’s refusal to issue mortgages for his houses. But it has all the hallmarks of a Hoover black bag job.
There were other attacks on Wright. In 1926, the State Department even tried to get Wright’s third wife, Olgivanna, deported as an undesirable alien. They were once again saved by the fast legal footwork of Phil LaFollette.
The IRS began harassing the architect in 1940, socking him with back taxes, penalties and interest dating back at least a decade. It was the kind of bill that can never be paid off and it haunted Wright for the rest of his life. Even after he died, the Agency kept after him. In 1959, the IRS audited the Wright Foundation, which was the main funding source for Wright’s troublesome colleagues at Taliesin. The Feds saw the Taliesin Fellowship as troublespot and wanted to extinguish it. It was after all a kind of commune, where the architecture students not only designed structures, but grew their own food, milled timber and ran a private school. [Not to mention the rampant bed-hopping.] Eventually, the tax agency forced the Foundation to sell off many of its most prized assets, including what remained after two awful fires at Taliesin of Wright’s remarkable stash of Japanese prints, perhaps the best private collection in the United States.
Wright’s plans to put portions of his Broadacre City model into reality ran into other problems with federally-connected lenders. Several of Wright’s cooperative communities, including one in Michigan and another in Pennsylvania, came to nothing because banks refused to back the plan. The reason? Wright and his clients refused to include restrictions prohibiting houses from being owned by blacks and Jews.
Kimberly and I visited the Gordon house on a hot and muggy June afternoon. Hot for Oregon anyway. The house is now the feature attraction of The Oregon Garden, which bills itself as a world-class botanical garden. It’s nothing of the sort. Indeed, it’s little more than a permanent dog-and-pony show for the chemical agricultural industry and the timber lobby. There are better gardens in any old neighborhood in Portland or Eugene than you’ll find here.
It was close to 90 outside, but inside the house remained cool, breezy, shaded by the jutting roofline. Wright detested air conditioning almost as much as contractors and academics. Even his home at Taliesen West, in the frying pan of Scottsdale, Arizona, uses natural features and architectural tricks to keep the building livable.
The Gordon House, like most of the Usonian designs, is a collage of Wright’s influences: Japan, Central America, the curves, angles and tones of the American landscape itself. It is a beautiful mix of visual puns and little tricks of light as subtle and deceptive as a painting by Wright’s contemporary, Eduard Vuillard.
The shape of the house is fairly simple. Wright called it a polliwog design, a t-shape with the kitchen and bedrooms massed in one section of the house, with the living room jutting out like the tail of a tadpole.
Even the design was political, reflecting Wright’s disdain for contractors, those middlemen of the construction trade who do so little work but pocket so much cash, consequently driving prices through the roof. Wright wanted to do away with them, particularly at the level of the American home. In fact, Wright wanted the Usonian houses to be so simple to put together that they could largely (and ideally) be constructed by the owner of the house. The prefabricated home becomes an extension of the Emersonian tradition.
One of Wright’s dictum’s for the Usonian designs is that the houses should “spring from the ground and into the light.” By and large they do.
That’s one of the most frustrating things about the migration of the Gordon house. It was originally designed to sit on a small bluff, with a view of the Willamette River to one side and the glacier-clad pyramid of Mt. Hood on the other. Each Usonian was different, fine-tuned to the site. The uprooted Gordon house seems alien to me, like a snow leopard I saw many years ago in the Cincinnati Zoo.
Once you take one step out of place, it’s so much easier to take the next one. The restored Gordon House now sits over a basement. Wright hated basements and they certainly weren’t part of the Usonian plan, which used a concrete floor mat laid over gravel and hot-water pipes as a source of radiant heating. The addition of a basement (in order to serve as an office for the docents) destroys the very nature of the house.
So what remains is really little more than a shell, a kind of exoskeleton of Wright’s original house. Instead of being a low-cost home, it’s now been transformed into a mauled museum piece, a model home for the path not taken in American residential architecture.
J. Edgar Hoover must be laughing as he roasts in Hell.
This essay is adapted from a chapter of Serpents in the Garden: Liaisons with Culture and Sex.
+ I was shocked and deeply saddened to learn last night of the death of my old friend Margaret Hayes Young, one of the fiercest and smartest environmentalists I’ve ever known.
Margaret was sui generis. For one thing, she was a New Yorker and a proud one, a rare commodity for a wilderness advocate. Second, she was a member of the Sierra Club, a hostile non-profit environment for women in the 1980s, when I met her, especially for women who spoke their mind. The Club tried to gag Margaret multiple times. They even tried to excommunicate her, because she simply wouldn’t tolerate their ceaseless political sell-outs even to the Reagan and Pappy Bush administrations, compromises that became more egregious and destructive under Clinton. Margaret fought every damn one. And she made sure that every attempt to repress her voice backfired on the Club, the Forest Service, the BLM, the governor of New York or anyone else foolish enough to silence her. She didn’t just wear a t-shirt that said “No Compromise”, that’s the way she lived, as if it was the only way to live.
Margaret had a voice like Lauren Bacall in “To Have and Have Not” and the frantic energy of Katherine Hepburn in “Bringing Up Baby.” She absolutely refused to shut up, sit down or take no for an answer. When the history of the radical environmental movement in the US is finally written, Margaret Hayes Young will at last get her due–or part of it. They ought to name one of the peaks in the Adirondacks after her.
For now, I can only sit here on the porch of my parents old cabin in the forests of southern Indiana, listening to the calls of warblers and vireos, knowing the planet is better for having had her as one of its mightiest defenders and more vulnerable now that she is not out on the frontlines shouting down the driver of some fucking bulldozer. Wherever she has gone, they aren’t ready for her…
+ The Comey-tern pre-popped their popcorn, sliced their camembert, uncorked their bottles of pinot gris, flipped on MSDNC and endured hours of tedium in the much-hyped Senate intelligence committee hearing, proceedings enlivened only by Comey’s admission that he leaked his infamous memo to a friend at the Columbia School of Law (Daniel Richman) to leak to the New York Times with the intent of forcing the appointment of a special prosecutor and the incoherent mutterings of John McCain, whose dementia now seems so advanced that one almost, if he weren’t such an asshole, feel a little pity for him. Please bring back Fawn Hall.
+ For a year, the Blairites whined, ranted and screamed that Jeremy Corbyn would destroy the Labour Party. Now it looks likely that Corbyn, despite ceaseless attacks from within his own party and neoliberal rags like The Guardian, will outperform both of the previous Labour leaders, Eddie Milliband and Gordon Brown. It should now be obvious even to the Blairites themselves that Tony Blair destroyed the British Labour Party and that the political agenda advanced by Jeremy Corbyn is the last ticket toward its rehabilitation…Don’t expect any apologies.
+ The Intercept published a modestly intriguing story this week on how hackers presumably with Russia’s GDR intelligence agency probed various state voting operations with phishing software. The story was largely based on a document leaked to The Intercept by an independent contractor working for the NSA. Typically, The Interceptover-sold the story as conclusive evidence that the Russians cyber-meddled in the fall elections, something the article itself never really tried to prove. That’s fairly standard fare in the new Hunt for a Red October. What’s truly appalling is that the reporters at the Intercept, led by the nasty Ryan Grimm, helped to burn their own source, a former Air Force officer with a name right out of a Tom Robbins novel: Reality Winner. As a whistleblower, Ms. Winner was no Edward Snowden, she left numerous trails leading right to her front door. She was naive and careless in her copying and delivery of the documents to The Intercept, foolishly thinking they’d take measures to protect her identity. In fact-checking their story, however, the Intercept reporters gave the Feds crucial information that pointed only to Winner as the leaker.
I guess the trusting Ms. Winner can’t sue them, but Pierre Omidyar, the money-bags behind The Intercept, should can the reporters, pay Ms. Winner’s legal bills and print a mea culpa about how badly his team fucked up.
Who could trust The Intercept now? And it’s too bad because that means future leakers will only be leaking to the New York Times and the Washington Post and we know they tenor of the stories they are pursuing. That’s the real tragedy of this foul story for me.
+ I’m sure the House’s repeal of Dodd-Frank’s financial reforms will turn out to enable more felonious looting by Wall Street predators, but on principle I support any move to efface Christopher Dodd’s name from legislation. He is, after all, the man Ralph Nader forever re-christened as “the Senator from Aetna.” (Dodd was also a principal in the infamous “waitress sandwich” incident with Ted Kennedy at La Brasserie back in the 1980s.)
+ Donald Trump is giving the Id a bad rap. Suddenly the commentariat is aflame with talk about how Trump “governs by Id.” Nonsense, what’s lurking in his mind isn’t an Id but a suppurating black hole of greed.
+ Half of Arizona’s Confederate Memorials were erected in the last 20 years!
+ Over to you Madam Mao! In his compelling series of interviews with Oliver Stone (which will air on Showtime starting June 12th), Vladimir Putin proclaims: “I have no bad days, because I am not a woman!”
My friend Amina Mire shrewdly trolled Putin’s machismo posturing:
“One of the primary differences in the lives of women inside Russia (including during the Soviet era) and the West is that in Russia women know men are sexist pricks but they ignore them. For that reason women in Russia have been able to to enter the STEM, the Army as well as executive fields and policing in large numbers. The same is not true in the West.”
But let’s not get too carried away. Russia ranks 129th in the percentage of women in parliamentary positions, well below even Saudi Arabia and just above Turkey and Egypt. Hardly the kind of progress one would have hoped for from the country that launched Valentina Tereshkova & Svetlana Savitskaya into space (and safely back to Earth)…
+ Trump’s FBI pick, Christopher “Wrong” Wray, was told about detainee torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib months before the scandal leaked to the press and did nothing about it, which, given Trump’s vowed to bring back waterboarding, is probably why he was chosen.
+ What happens when no one can afford to live in the USA any more? Already at least 10 states (California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Texas, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Arizona, Florida and Colorado) offer less than 30 affordable rental units for every 100 potential renters. Will Mexico pay to build a wall to stem the American exodus south?
+ Trickle-down economics bankrupted Kansas. It took the state’s GOP 5 years to finally see the damage. But that wreckage isn’t stopping Trump and Paul Ryan from trying to impose the Kansas Model on the entire nation…
+ Buried in Trump’s budget is a scheme to sell off the Washington, DC Aqueduct, the same body of drinking water the CIA wanted to dump LSD into during the MK-Ultra days. Maybe Isis and the Taliban will get in a bidding war to buy the waterway for some nefarious plot and really drive the price up. More likely some corporate Al Qaeda will get its hands on it and, as in Flint, charge helpless consumers for the privilege of drinking toxic water.
+ Andrew Myles Cockburn: “Funny how Trump will never say ‘radical Wahhabi terrorism.’ Hmm.”
+ Quick call the Washington Post! Russia is meddling in the Washington Post poll!!
“The new survey finds 46 percent saying they voted for Clinton and 43 percent for Trump, similar to her two-point national vote margin. Asked how they would vote if the election were held today, 43 say they would support Trump and 40 percent say Clinton.”
+ Uday Trump speaks (or grunts): “Those who oppose my father aren’t even people.”
+ Anti-fascist Spanish novelist Juan Goytisolo, who died this week at the age of 92:
“The vitality of a culture is in its capacity to assimilate foreign influences. The culture that’s defensive and closed condemns itself to decadence.”
+ The state of Massachusetts has set a terrible precedent by putting on trial a young woman whose tasteless tweets allegedly drove her boyfriend to commit suicide. Still if she’s convicted for involuntary manslaughter, imagine the potential class action suits that might be filed against Trump…
+ The Los Angeles Times ran a fascinating piece on the cost of housing inmates in California state prisons, which averages about $75,560 a year, more than the annual tuition and room-and-board at Harvard University. It’s also worth noting that most California inmates have committed far less serious crimes than many Harvard graduates…
+ States with higher populations of blacks have less generous welfare programs, according to a new report from the Urban Institute. Vermont, one of the whitest states in the US, has the most generous welfare program in the nation, where 78 out of every 100 poor families receive some kind of welfare aid. In Louisiana, where a third of the residents are black, only 4 out of every 100 needy families get any kind of welfare assistance. This grotesques disparity is the result of Bill Clinton’s noxious welfare reform, which block-granted welfare programs to the individual states.
+ Perhaps it’s best that America retreats from the world and encloses itself behind a giant wall, breathing air from coal-fired power plants and drinking water laced with PCBs. It may be the only way to keep the rest of the planet safe from the predations of the worst among us, many of whom seem to hold elected office.
+ The mass killing in Orlando this week didn’t involve trucks or knives. Are we having a “gun discussion” now, Mr. President?
+ First privatize air traffic control, then privatize the air…?
+ Canadian princeling Justin Trudeau tweeted out his “disappointment” at Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords. This from the man ripping up Alberta for its tar sands and sluicing the black poison south in pipelines of planetary death & destruction…
+ If you want a taste of what one of the last real world leaders sounded like at the top of his game, read Fidel’s speech at the Earth Summit, held in Rio 1992. It is revealing to watch Oliver Stone’s compelling interviews with Fidel (as well as the filmed interviews by my late pal Saul Landau) and compare them to Stone’s recent interviews with Putin, which will air on Showtime starting on Monday night. Fidel was, of course, obsessed with power, but he was also driven by a fierce ideology, a global leader who defended the weakest of the world and, as in this speech, the state of the planet as well. Putin is, for better or worse, consumed with power, Russia’s and his own. And as his grip on all facets of the government tightened, Putin helped orchestrate the greatest upward transfer of wealth in Russian history while imposing bracing austerity measures on the working class. Now economic inequality in Russia is more extreme than at any time since the Romanovs. Let us hope that Russia’s fate is not Cuba’s, as the shock therapy capitalists salivate at the economic opening of the island.
What I’m listening to this week…
Small Town by Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan
Nightfood Ina Party Time by The Heptones
A Social Call by Jazzmeia Horn
Emotions by Skinny Hightower
Pick Your Poison by Selwyn Birchwood
What I’m reading this week….
Magpie Murders: a Novel by Adam Horowitz
At First No One Took Him Seriously
Gabriel García Márquez: “He imposed obligatory military service for men over eighteen, declared to be public property any animals walking the streets after six in the evening, and made men who were overage wear red armbands. He sequestered Father Nicanor in the parish house under pain of execution and prohibited him from saying mass or ringing the bells unless it was for a Liberal victory. In order that no one would doubt the severity of his aims, he ordered a firing squad organized in the square and had it shoot a scarecrow. At first no one took him seriously.”
(Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JSCCounterPunch. Courtesy, CounterPunch.org.)
MY VIETNAM WAR, 50 YEARS LATER
by John Grant
Each of us carried in his heart a separate war which in many ways was totally different . . . we also shared a common sorrow; the immense sorrow of war.
Bao Ninh, The Sorrow of War
It’s hard to believe that 50 years ago I was a 19-year-old kid in Vietnam sitting on a mountaintop near the Cambodian border in the forests west of Pleiku trying to locate equally young North Vietnamese radio operators with a piece of WWII RDF equipment I’d been told was obsolete. I was part of a two-man team, working in conjunction with two other two-man teams; our job was to listen for enemy broadcasts, which were sent in coded five-letter groups of Morse code.
Sometimes we searched and located random operators. Other times, we’d get an intel lead on when an operator would come up. Using the silver-alloy rotating antenna of the obsolete PRD1, we obtained a bearing that was then plotted on a map; hopefully, the three bearings would provide a tight fix and locate the operator. We’d give the map coordinate to division G2, who would assign some death-dealing operation to search and destroy whatever was on or near the coordinate.
Throughout it all, I remained relatively safe, while the men I most respect in this business of war — the mostly drafted infantrymen, or “grunts” — did the dirty work “humping the boonies” with weapons and packs. I went to Vietnam on a troop ship (a rust-bucket named the USNS General Hugh J. Gaffey ) in August 1966 with an Army Security Agency company; once we arrived in division base camp in Pleiku, seven of us were assigned to a tactical DF team with, first, the 25th Division, then the 4th Division. I later spent some time at a cushy strategic DF site in Camrahn Bay.
In one operation, our teams hunted down an operator known to us as SOJ. It took us 30 days. Each day, the operator would use a different frequency and call sign; it always amazed us clueless kids that G2 Division Intelligence knew this. Sure enough, at the prescribed time, there he was. First thing, we’d locate our coordinates on the map by sighting on road intersections or hilltops. Our team sergeant inside a box on the back of a three-quarter-ton truck at base camp would plot our bearings and, hopefully, get that tight “fix.” The NVA radio operator we were looking for was attached to what was presumed to be a large dug-in unit HQ; the operator was transmitting to a larger HQ over the Cambodian border. They knew we were looking for him, so every day this operator with a leg-key and a comrade with a bicycle generator would go to a different location at some distance from his unit. Over 30-days, a pattern developed, and G2 figured where the dug-in unit must be. Some combination of long range reconnaissance patrol (LRRP), 105mm or 155mm howitzers, F4 Phantom jets and the ultimate weapon, infantry grunts, located the unit and destroyed it and all the soldiers in it — presumably including my counterpart radio operator, whose Morse key characteristics we had developed a sensitivity to. A large arms cache was discovered. My comrades and I were each given an Army Commendation Medal for the operation. Today, I actually feel pretty rotten about my part in all this. As I’m wont to do these days, I like to ask anyone who expresses anything positive about the war, can you tell me anything — anything! — that the Vietnamese did against us here in the United States. Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh guerrillas were our ally in World War Two against the Japanese who had driven the colonial French army into its barracks as the French government collapsed and collaborated in Europe. Terrorist acts? Not a hint. Well they were communists, weren’t they? Yes, but they also quoted the US Declaration of Independence at the end of WWII, hoping the US would support their liberation from French colonialism. It was not to be; we supported French re-colonization, which led to 30 years of terrible war on the Vietnamese. And a US retreat based on the war’s ultimate immorality.
I had it pretty good in Vietnam, compared to many in the infantry and other dangerous jobs. My brother was there during the same time; he was a platoon leader in the 25th infantry. Fortunately, he made it home unscathed. I ran into him once as I and my DF teammate were dropped into a firebase in the saw grass west of Pleiku, a place I describe as a cigar burn in a shag carpet. I’d been there two days, during which we dug and fortified a small bunker against mortars. I looked across the LZ and told my comrade, “I think that’s my brother over there. I’m going to check.” My brother’s infantry company was on what was called “palace guard” protecting the battalion firebase, which featured a 105mm howitzer battery. I stayed there maybe four days and moved on, which was how it went for me and the other DF teams. The day after I left, the place was hit. As I look back 50 years, I realize I was a wide-eyed kid and led a lucky, charmed life in Vietnam, always moving from one place to another, never really connecting, then moving again. Sometimes we worked off the back of our jeeps; sometimes we did DF on Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) patrols; sometimes we were dropped off on forest hilltops. So I witnessed many aspects of that historic conflagration known to us as The Vietnam War and to the Vietnamese as The American War.
The most exciting mission for me was the 10-days I spent on a massive rock outcropping at the top of a huge mountain west of Pleiku overlooking the Cambodian border. Hueys would have to hover in an opening in the tall jungle trees and slowly drop down to put one skid on the incredible rock sticking out of the top of the mountain. With the chopper blades spinning like crazy — and a disconcerting red light on the Huey’s dash blaring out RPM! RPM! RPM! — we’d throw our rifles and DF crap out the door and jump out after it. Same-same with a second ship of seven grunts assigned to protect our REMF asses — as in Rear Echelon Mother Fuckers. I once wrote and performed a blues song titled “REMF Way Out In The Front” based on this 10-day episode. Of course, for the seven grunts, it was like R&R to catch up on their sleep.
Our protectors set out trip flares around the base of the rock. One night one went off, scaring the hell outa me. We concluded it was an animal; I imagined a very surprised roaming tiger tripping the flare. Sometimes, we’d hear firefights going on at the base of the mountain, but there didn’t seem much chance the NVA would come up the mountain for us. One day, F4 Phantoms were screaming low over our heads and dropping like missiles down the side of the mountain, firing 40mm guns at the NVA below us. We began to hear noises like rustling leaves in the woods below us. Holy shit! They’re coming up the mountain! We all jacked our weapons and got ready, laying down on the rock and pointing them down into the forest below, waiting for Charlie to break through the trees fleeing from the F4’s guns. We waited and we waited. Each time an F4 came over we’d hear the rustling again. Eventually, we figured out the noise was empty shell casing hitting the ground. I went back to my duties listening on earphones to Morse code and getting bearings on NVA radio operators. But in those minutes waiting for Vietnamese men to appear out of the forest, I realized I was quite capable and willing to shoot a human being. Of course, I had no clue why I was really there on that mountaintop doing what I was doing. But I came to quickly understood the thing that drives war: Someone wanted to kill me, and he’d do it if I or my comrades didn’t kill him first.
Most of the time up on that incredible rock amounted to amusing myself from the boredom. I remember reading a dog-eared copy of Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 I’d found laying around. I’d also climb down from the rock and walk into the woods, where I’d sit on a log and just listen and look around, amazed that I was on a huge mountaintop along the Cambodian border in the middle of a bloody war zone. The forest along the ridgeline atop that mountain felt peaceful. I’d hear little critters scurrying around. I saw flying monkeys soar from one tree to another. I ran into lizards and peculiar insects. I saw a strange-headed, very large predator bird gliding over us and riding the wind currents. It was not until the 1990s and a reading of The Sorrow of War , the magnificent novel by Boa Ninh, that I realized, for the Vietnamese, the forests were animated by spirits and ghosts. I’m not sure if the spirits Ninh’s character Kien speaks hauntingly of inhabiting the forests of the Central Highlands stayed in the valleys and avoided the mountaintops or whether I was, again, too dumb to be aware of them. Or maybe they just left me alone, figuring (erroneously) that I was harmless. Here’s how Ninh describes the forest and the ghosts from the 27th Battalion in The Sorrow Of War:
“It was here, at the end of the dry season of 1969 that his 27th Battalion was surrounded and almost totally wiped out. Ten men survived from the Lost Battalion after fierce, horrible, barbarous fighting. … [Ghosts] were born in that deadly defeat. They were still loose, wandering in every corner and bush in the jungle, drifting along the stream, refusing to depart for the Other World. From then on it was called the Jungle of Screaming Souls. Just hearing the name whispered was enough to send chills down the spine.”
Like Ninh has done with his American War, I’ve written fiction about my Vietnam War. My fiction was two short stories in Penthouse magazine in the late 1970s. “Polyorifice Enterprises” was modeled on the black humor of Catch 22 and satirized the prostitution that spread like an epidemic in places like Pleiku; for security and health reasons, the Fourth Division supervised bordellos just outside the base camp gate. Everything a horny 19-year-old American soldier wanted was catered to by entrepreneurial elements among the South Vietnamese. We were young American males feeling great power as part of a massive army, and we had money burning holes in our jungle fatigue pockets. Young peasant girls were an attractive commodity to be exploited. It’s worth noting that the most famous work of literature in Vietnamese — the narrative poem The Tale of Kieu written by scholar Nguyen Du around 1810 — is about a young woman who becomes a prostitute to save her family from ruin in a period of war lord rule. She eventually becomes a guerrilla chieftain and prevails. The first stanza of the poem ends with these lines:
One watches things that makes one sick at heart.
This is the law: no gain without loss,
and Heaven hurts fair women for sheer spite.
Later, a character says this of the protagonist, Thuy Kieu.
She is a woman much ill-used by fate!
But then it’s nothing new beneath the sun.
A poetic sense of stoicism and the dignity of life in times of disaster and trial are the core of this great work. When I came home from Vietnam, I submerged and began haunting used bookstores, reading things like The Tale of Kieu and books like Street Without Joy by Bernard Fall and his other books on the French war against the Vietnamese and the insidious transition to the American war. Slowly, I began to understand what I’d been floundering around in in my charmed youth. I began to feel a sense of mission to tell this story, which to this day is like pissing up a pole in our mainstream American culture.
For some reason that’s worth pondering, the Vietnamese seem to like Americans. In the spirit of Kieu, they seem wise enough to know, following a war — and they’ve had many besides the one with us — there’s little benefit to nursing vengeance and holding a grudge. It’s time to move on. This may be because they’re a small nation with survival as a goal; in our case, we’re a huge, imperialistic nation with thriving and domination as a goal. We don’t lose wars. It’s imprinted in our DNA. My poet friend Bill Ehrhart, a wounded Marine vet, has a short poem that always gets me when I read it.
Do they think of me now
in those strange Asian villages
where nothing ever seemed
and my few grim friends
moving through them
When they tell stories to their children
of the evil
that awaits misbehavior,
is it me they conjure?
Memory, Writing and Politics
That writer’s place inside the imaginative mind where things rise from the unconscious and find their way outward to the fingertips and onto the keyboard to become words — that place is neither fact nor fiction. This is a fact. Donald Trump has made this fact more clear than maybe anyone ever has in modern memory. In that writer’s place, I’ve always employed Bao Ninh’s character Kien from The Sorrow Of Warand the ill-fated 27th NVA Battalion as stand-ins for the unit I helped locate for death and destruction. I see the lush terrain of Vietnam’s Central Highlands now in my mind as an opening master shot in a movie. The camera is looking out the open door of a Huey in the early dawn hours. There is actually no door at all on the chopper, and cool air is rushing into the passenger compartment where I sit on a canvas seat with no seatbelt holding my M14 rifle. (In 1966, REMFs still had long, wood-stocked M14s.) Everything is green and gold from the rising sun. I’m stunned looking at the winding Se San River like a golden snake slithering through the forest reaching to the horizon. This was probably the most amazing, most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen. The image and moment is seared into the creases of my mind.
Earlier that morning, I’d leaped up onto the top of our three-quarter-ton truck’s box, and as an olive-drab behemoth, two-prop Chinook slowly lowered itself down toward me, I’d slapped a metal ring onto a hook below the massive copter’s belly. Out the door of the Huey, over the Se San River, I watched the truck with its box containing maps and DF paraphernalia trailing in the wind on a sling beneath the Chinook; a jeep and trailer had been driven inside the belly of the beast. Our mobile DF operation was headed toward the border as part of a huge operation to engage and clear the NVA streaming down from the north via the Ho Chi Minh trail and into the Highlands. There is an amazing sense of power one gets — especially as a kid — from being a small part of such a powerful and immense army of men. I realize now we were looking for young Vietnamese men like Kien and the 27th Battalion.
I actually saw men like Kien on two occasions. The first was when a very gaunt, hungry man in black with a khaki pith helmet, sick with malaria, turned himself in on our firebase perimeter. There’d been a wild shootout along the perimeter the night before, apparently the NVA testing the camp. The second time, I was about to go outside the perimeter with paper to move my bowels at the rough facility, when a rather bemused infantryman told me to hold up. “Maybe you don’t want to go out there night now, pal” he said. He had me look into a pair of night glasses he had set up on a tripod. Just beyond the shitter, I could see little white ghosts moving back and forth. It was news to me that we were virtually surrounded. My bowels tightened up and I returned to my little bunker, where I made sure my M14 was in good order and I had magazines loaded and ready. I later learned the lieutenant colonel who commanded the battalion had ordered leaflets dropped into the jungle challenging the NVA to hit our firebase. He was virtually calling the NVA “pussies” if they didn’t attack his fine base. The NVA didn’t fall for the bait and decided to move on. The colonel had ordered mines to be placed around the perimeter, and once the surrounding NVA left, he ordered them to be removed. Of course, a detail of privates was assembled, one of whom blew himself to kingdom come. I heard the BOOM! Then lots of hollering and running medics. In the end, a chaplain led a detail of other privates picking up the loose pieces of the unfortunate young draftee. I also learned that lieutenant colonels like the man who led this battalion served six-month tours and often asked their men to do brave things to accrue glory to the colonel’s record so he could make rank in the competitive environment of Vietnam. It was known as “punching your ticket.” Later, hearing Jonathon Winters do his routine as Colonel Robert Winglow — “OK, men, you can feel secure knowing I’m a thousand meters behind you up on a hill watching through the long lenses. Forward, men! I have you in the long lenses.” — I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
I’d be remiss in not recounting how this lieutenant colonel left our firebase on a stretcher. He passed by me carried by two men, headed toward the LZ and a Huey back to the division hospital. The tough warhorse to the bitter end, he was hollering, “Get that son-of-a-bitch! I want that bastard!” In his wounded condition, the colonel thought an NVA sniper had nailed him. Alas, this was not the case. A young private near me had been cleaning his M16, and not realizing there was a round in the chamber, had sent a round into the colonel’s tent, through the colonel’s gut and then through the executive officer’s calf. The two field grade officers had been discussing tactical issues. I’m not sure what happened to the poor private. A new lieutenant colonel was flown out to the firebase to punch his ticket and spur the unit on to even greater glory. Of course, I was there to help the colonel point his men in the right direction.
While I have zero trauma from my Vietnam experience, as you may have noticed I have a pretty bad attitude about the military and the war itself. I also have a whopping case of survival guilt. One, because I made it home without a scratch. And, two, because I had it so easy. My thinking now is all wrapped up in atoning for what I’d call my moral cluelessness at the time. Most Americans not active in the antiwar movement were guilty of this moral cluelessness during the war and many still are guilty of it. Like the cartoon Sgt. Schultz from Hogan’s Heroes they keep it up by saying, “I see nah-thing!” It’s a failure — more a willful refusal — to recognize the tremendous suffering we caused the Vietnamese. We obsess on our own losses and our own suffering, our 58,000 dead on the wall in Washington. Not that we should not honor and mourn these dead; it’s that the Vietnamese lost so many more and suffered so much more than we did. And when distilled down to its essence, the war really makes little sense except as an expression of Cold War hysteria. We talk about “lessons” learned that never seem to really get at what should have been learned. Few dwell on the fact we slaughtered somewhere between two and three million Vietnamese and Indochinese people. And that’s not counting the immense destruction of infrastructure and upheavals in family life and the legacy of Agent Orange in the ecosystem and a host of other areas of suffering.
I recall a very diplomatic, English-speaking veteran from the North making a tour of the US in the late 80s; our Veterans For Peace chapter in Philly hosted him. I was on local TV news walking him in the rain under an umbrella past the Philadelphia Vietnam War memorial. He was a good man and very moved. ROTC officers at the university I worked at saw me on TV with him and made it clear they found it disgusting that I had taken him there. Later, I saw video of this man in a gathering of US Vietnam veterans in New York. I watched him break down into sobbing over what seemed to me frustration with the lack of understanding or sensitivity in these men for the great suffering of the Vietnamese. In my reading of the scene, these men couldn’t see past the idea of “communist” and could only focus on their own pain. Maybe peer pressure worked against anyone extending sympathy to this alien man from halfway around the world. The pain of these men was no doubt very real, but it was dwarfed by the pain this friendly, forgiving man represented, a man who showed great fortitude and courage to travel halfway around the world alone to reveal himself in the midst of American culture.
Memories like this only reinforce my disgust for the Vietnam War and the unnecessary evil it represents. Again, I challenge anyone to tell me what the Vietnamese ever did to us. The historian Mark Moyar recently suggested in an essay in The New York Times series Vietnam 1967 that the Vietnam War was “winnable” — if only we had done this or that differently. To me, that kind of what-if, alternative history is an utter waste of time that amounts to fiction like Phillip K. Dick’s famous novel The Man in The High Castle, an alternative history that imagines the Nazis winning World War Two. Rambo was that kind of alternative history as pop cinema entertainment. A malaise-ridden nation was presented with the macho Hollywood hero Sylvester Stallone — a man who spent the Vietnam War teaching in a girls school in Switzerland — giving us his trademark sneer all decked out in greased-up pectoral muscles. Brandishing a huge Bowie knife and hand-held M60, John Rambo did what the United States Army, the Marine Corps, the Navy and Air Force could not do. He emotionally won the Vietnam War inside a darkened theater inside our hermetically-sealed, exceptional minds. It’s the same thing Donald Trump is trying to do with the collective American mind as it feels the haunting reality of decline gnawing at its perceptions of greatness.
Nursing our moral loss in Vietnam as if it were an insult doesn’t help. The Vietnamese beat us fair and square. They didn’t beat us in the capacity for mass, hi-tech slaughter; there’s no question we could have “won” if life was only about the ability to kill people by the thousands or millions. They beat us on moral grounds. They were right; we were wrong. As Ho Chi Minh reportedly said: “We can lose longer than you can win.” Or another famous line told to Robert McNamara by a Vietnamese diplomat in the 1990s: “We knew you would eventually leave. You Americans could leave; we lived here and we could not leave.” Or as Ward Just put it in a great little book written in 1968 called To What End: Report From Vietnam: “Of course the war was unwinnable. It was useless to fight the Vietnamese. They would have fought for a thousand years.”
Revisionist “winners” like Mark Moyar should surrender and find another, more productive topic to research. It should be clear that such alternative histories on the Vietnam War are purely political and meant to reinforce our contemporary militarist class and its future options. There’s a reluctance to give the Vietnamese credit for their talent for suffering and survival, which is what beat us. There’s so much we could learn from the Vietnamese in the area of humility, resilience and forgiveness. But we prefer to see those traits as the characteristics of a loser and a patsy. We insist on being winners even if, to borrow the famous Eastwood line, it requires us to be “legends in our own minds.”
Truth and Fact are at the core of all this. It’s interesting that the Vietnam war correspondent Ward Just wrote his eloquent 1968 memoir To What End and, then, shifted his career to fiction and novel writing. Dealing purely in reality was not enough. Just was ahead of his time in this respect, anticipating the fact-free, truth-phobic Age of Trump where the art of bullshit prevails. Just quotes the playwright Harold Pinter as an epigram in To What End:
“There is no hard distinction between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. The thing is not necessarily either true or false. It can be both true and false.”
A writer’s mind is unlike a lawyer’s mind, which is always dependent on a citation from some governmental legal book. A writer’s mind is free and, accordingly, dangerous. The philosopher/longshoreman Eric Hoffer in the 1950s said: “We’re geniuses at six, and it’s all downhill from there.” Today, we’re drowning in information, data and stories. Ironically, surveillance, secrecy and power dominate our lives like never before. Violence becomes a cynical tool like never before. Still, human connection is the key to getting anywhere, leading to the disaffected left’s cry-in-the-street, “The people united will never be defeated.” Trouble is, that kind of unity is much easier said than done, given all the distractions of culture and technology.
In 2002, I made a film in Vietnam and motor biked west of Hanoi with two friends, a seriously wounded Marine veteran named Frank Corcoran living and working in Vietnam, the subject of the film, and a Vietnamese woman who did translating. In 1968, Frank, also a kid, was in Vietnam 45 days when he was seriously shot in the stomach. As he lay bleeding-out under fire, two men crawled out to help him. Between them, these men managed to bandage him up, before they were both shot and killed. Frank healed physically but still deals with classic PTSD. In the 84-minute film called Second Time Around, he speaks eloquently about the humanity — the human love! — that drove these more experienced men to save his young life. It’s a tale that will make you shake your head in admiration for the sacrifice and bravery under fire of infantrymen in Vietnam. As Frank emphasizes, their actions had nothing — zero! — to do with country and patriotism.
As we drove our motorbikes westward out of Hanoi, we really had no idea where we were going, but we trusted the Vietnamese. We ended up in a village talking with a man our age who had been an NVA soldier along the DMZ between North and South Vietnam. In his little store he had a crude tin tank about eight feet high full of fermenting beer that he dispensed from a garden-style faucet sticking out of the bottom of the tank. It was probably the worst beer I’ve ever tasted, but that didn’t seem to matter. It had been a long, hot day and we were all delighted with each other’s company. As we drank his beer and began to get a buzz on, we told stories through our translator about our relative roles in the war. We all agreed that was then; this is now — and now is different. There were no recriminations either way; just a mutual respect and joy in telling stories and laughing together. In the back of our minds, we all knew that, in years past, we would have had to think about killing each other. My friend and I made it clear we were disgusted with our government and its policies, during the war and now. We then learned that this man felt the same way about his government, then and now. We toasted each other and cursed all governments, drank more bad beer and laughed. I forget the details, but he had been disgusted with some policies the government of the North had initiated along the DMZ. I concluded it was the North Vietnamese version of what is known in our military as “chicken shit.” The NVA soldiers we were fighting back in the 60s were just as trapped as many of us were; they had their own version of FUBAR: Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition. What our World War Two fathers called SNAFU: Situation Normal, All Fucked Up. When we left the man’s shop, it was amazing we could stay up on our motorbikes. I recall it as a wonderful moment of human solidarity that transcended the self-perpetuating crimes of militarism and patriotism.
On a daily basis, now, we see the rise of arrogance and belligerence in the world. It seems to be seasonal, and we’re entering a new season of it. One of the most striking examples of this is the Philippines, where the sociopathic President Rodrigo Dutarte proudly advocates and oversees the murder of thousands by death squads and now — surprise! — finds himself at war in his home province against an uprising linked with ISIS. I read a story in The New York Times that quoted a civilian caught between these two murderous forces. It’s the-same-old-story from the Vietnam War and other wars, including gang wars and police violence in places like inner city Chicago. Civilians caught in the crossfire. Donald Trump, of course, adores Mr. Duterte’s authoritarian impulses, as he does Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s in Egypt and the Saudi royals on the Arabian peninsula. His connection with the authoritarian Vladimir Putin seems quite unsavory and somehow revolving around greed. How did it come about that the world should descend into this kind of seasonal maelstrom of overweening authority? Has it always been like this? And now with i-phones and everything connected on the internet we just have more access to information, making us more aware of how crazy life is? In exceptional American, we’ve deluded ourselves that being “ill-used by fate” — what the Vietnamese heroine Thuy Kieu was stoically inured to — is a very un-American fate. Faced with difficulty, we take charge, kick some ass and take some names. If things aren’t going our way, we fake it and make things up. Then, we mobilize and drop huge bombs and kill people from 12,000 miles away while sitting in an air-conditioned cubicle sipping a Diet Coke, anticipating the end of our shift and going home to play with our kids and watch TV.
During Memorial Day ceremonies, I attended a reading of Martin Luther King’s famous Riverside Church speech where he linked the Vietnam War with the Civil Rights Movement. Many believe this is why he was assassinated. It was chilling to hear the speech and recognize the resonances with our own insane time. He wanted to know where we in the US had gone wrong. Why didn’t we support the liberation movements fighting to lift the yoke of colonial oppression in places like Vietnam? He was the rare case in 1968 in that he knew the history and he publicly articulated it: The anti-colonial liberation movement in Vietnam had fought shoulder-to-shoulder with our forces against the Japanese and, in 1945 when the war was won, had quoted our Declaration of Independence from colonial oppression in their declaration of independence document. For speaking this, the man was murdered.
I’m not as naïve as I was 50 years ago on that mountaintop overlooking the Cambodian border in Vietnam. I know the rise of a seasonal wave of Social Darwinism when I see it. We’re probably closer to civil war in this country than at any time in modern memory. As is the nature of our times, this civil war may break out in “acts of terror” by “losers,” as Donald Trump would say. In an unprecedented fashion, President Trump is playing hard to his core constituency, the people who mobbed to his speeches, people he’d stroke like a giant cat by hollering, “Punch him in the face!” when a heckler disrupted his words. He’s abandoning sensible Republicans on things like the Paris Accords. He sucks up to Saudi Arabia and Israel, as he intentionally insults Germany, France and Europe. Established coalitions are being thrown into topsy-turvy confusion. Political factions, including the fragmented left, begin to wonder what strange bedfellow they should bunk up with. Corruption and war have crawled into our entertainment industry and found a lucrative home. We are becoming addicted to the i-phones we carry with us everywhere and becoming more and more lost in the world of the internet, which is becoming a major crime scene and cold-war zone.
As a kid sitting atop that huge mountain in the midst of the most beautiful terrain imaginable, the Se San River winding its way through it like a golden snake, I could never have imagined the leadership of America that had sent me there to help kill Vietnamese would eventually lead us to the cataclysmic condition we’re now living through. And let’s not delude ourselves: While not letting others off the hook, American leadership is implicated profoundly in the current disastrous state of the world. The slow-motion train wreck we read about on a daily basis makes me nostalgic for that simple meeting west of Hanoi, fueled by terrible, home-brewed beer, with a former enemy who years earlier would have wanted to kill me, and vice versa, because, in that case, my leaders could not find the humility to sit down and work out their problems with his leaders.
A Vietnam vet friend of mine tells me I should apply for PTSD status. Maybe it’s because of my brother and so many friends who served in the infantry that I feel it would be wrong. I really don’t feel I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I feel that the spirit of social Darwinism and war has become so intense that everybody in our culture suffers from war stress. What I have is Survival Guilt and POCS: Pissed-Off-Citizen-Syndrome. Bill McKibben, the environmentalist leader who founded 350.org, said it best in a Times op-ed following President Trump’s abandonment of the Paris Accords. He cited the “dysfunctional American political process” as the cause of our problem. That problem, he wrote, isn’t “because [Trump] didn’t take climate change seriously, but also because he didn’t take civilization seriously.”
We’re being dragged into a Hobbesian world of war in which everybody is being pitted against everybody else. We’re no longer imperially hunting the Vietnamese in far-away forests. Leaders like Trump are now fighting for themselves first and planning to search out and destroy those weaker and poorer than they are. The Resistance is growing and reaching into the mainstream. Maybe it’s not too late to learn something from the Vietnamese about resilience and how to resist and survive the crushing of the cooperative spirit.
Finally, from The Tale of Kieu:
Roosters crowed at the moon. She walked and walked,
leaving her tracks on the dew-sprinkled bridge.
Deep into the night, along a road unknown,
She braved the wind and weather and went on.
(John Grant is a member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent, uncompromised, five-time Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper.)
KICK-OFF TO SUMMER READING PARTY at Todd Grove Park, Saturday, June 17th 1pm-3pm, All Ages!
Join us for a party at Todd Grove Park to kick-off Summer Reading! There will be free BBQ, a photo booth and props, a button-design station, a bubble wand-making station, and summer *reading sign-ups! We will also announce the winners of our Bookmark Contest. Our All-Ages Summer Reading Program: Reading by Design kicks off on June 17th * sign-up & earn prizes by reading and playing games this summer. Summer Reading’s not just for kids anymore! For more info, please contact Melissa Carr (Teens & Adults) & Jannah Minnix (Children) at 463-4490.
THE NFL’S WAR AGAINST COLIN KAEPERNICK
by Dave Zirin
We have heard a farcical parade of excuses by NFL owners and executives for why free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick remains unemployed. “He’s not 100 percent committed.” “He’s more concerned with activism.” “He’s a distraction.” “He will only sign with a team if he starts.” “He wants too much money.” Even, “I am concerned about his conditioning now that he is now a vegetarian” (Real NFL players, if you haven’t heard, floss their teeth with steak gristle and drink testosterone shakes drained fresh from a bull’s balls.)
Their foot-massagers in the media—especially much of the team at Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback page at Sports Illustrated—have dutifully repeated these assertions with metronomic regularity.
Yet as each of these claims has been debunked by journalists actually communicating with Kaepernick and his people, they all continue to be reiterated. In other words, what is happening is a cycle of disinformation, carried out by media members who might as well wear the NFL brand tattooed on the small of their backs.
I have spoken with Kaepernick, and I can say that he wants to play. He is training six days a week, and he is not holding out for money. He simply wants a camp invite. As lesser back-up quarterbacks continue to be signed, his pariah status has become a spectacle without precedent. This was captured perfectly in a bit of research from Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman, who tweeted, “144 quarterbacks have thrown 200 or more passes in the year when they turned 29. 143 were on NFL rosters when they turned 30. Kaepernick is the only one not.”
The last refuge for those reporters who are part of this disinformation campaign, like this embarrassing and much-ridiculed Twitter storm from Sports Illustrated’s Andy Benoit, is that “He simply isn’t very good. Study the tape!” Another Sports Illustrated Monday Morning Quarterback journalist, Albert Breer, has beat the gong consistently that “Level of play is the No. 1 reason for Colin Kaepernick[’s being] unemployed.” (If these names are familiar, Benoit was the football writer who said that women’s sports weren’t worth watching, and Albert Breer is the Red Sox fan who brayed last month that he believed Baltimore Oriole Adam Jones was lying about being called “n—er” at Breer’s beloved Fenway Park.)
I have interviewed several football folk who have “studied the tape,” and they say otherwise. Bleacher Report’s lead scout Doug Farrar said to me, “As someone who has analyzed him back to his time at Nevada, I can tell you that Colin Kaepernick still belongs in the NFL—at the very least as a high-level backup, but more realistically as a starter, most likely in the mid-to-low 20s based on scheme fit. No, Kaepernick doesn’t always play from the pocket with ideal efficiency, but the story about him as a disaster in the pocket is a canard.… I’ll say this with certainty—Colin Kaepernick can still start in the NFL, and the fact that he isn’t on a team for football reasons alone strains credulity.”
As the rationalizations for his pariah-status pileup, the latest is perhaps the most gobsmacking. Seahawk coach Pete Carroll, if you can get your head around this, met with Kaepernick and said that he was simply too good for them to sign. Carroll said, “He’s a starter in this league. We have a starter, but he’s a starter in this league.”
The logic of this statement, in a league where quarterbacks go down for several games or longer with regularity, is imbecilic. Equally risible is who the Seahawks signed to be their new backup: someone named Austin Davis who has 13 career touchdown passes and 12 interceptions and didn’t play last season. (In contrast, Kaepernick has 72 TDs passes and 30 picks and took a team to the Super Bowl.) Let’s not pick on Davis. Former New York Jet Ryan Fitzpatrick was signed as a backup by Tampa Bay. In one game last season, Fitzpatrick had more interceptions—six—than Kaepernick had all season: four. The list of awful quarterbacks with jobs is long, and each one a slap in the face to Kaepernick’s impressive career, his sterling locker-room reputation and the idea that the league is any kind of a meritocracy.
The truth is ugly as sin. The NFL is denying Colin Kaepernick employment not because he isn’t “good enough” but because he is being shut out for the crime of using his platform to protest the killing of black kids by police. This makes the league’s right-wing billionaire owners’ silk boxers bunch up.
NFL owners don’t make pariahs out of players who beat women or face accusations of murder. As dutifully printed and tweeted without commentary by Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, New York Giants owner John Mara said that he had received “letters” (letters that no one at Sports Illustrated has seen) showing that fan reaction makes signing Kaepernick impossible. He said this a year after he signed his kicker Josh Brown to a multiyear deal despite seeing detailed and horrific reports about how Brown beat his wife, but Kaepernick’s taking a knee during the anthem was a bridge too far.
Kaepernick’s pariah status is about sending a shot across the bow at every political athlete—particularly black athletes—that they better toe the line. The owners are again sending the message—just like when they tried to “influence” research on the effects of brain injuries in the sport—that the lives of players simply do not matter to the National Football League.
The big mystery is whether what is happening is an old-school “blackballing” or if this is a conscious and coordinated campaign. Former NFL player Eric Davis implied strongly that he thought that the NFL had contacted the Seahawks and told them not to sign Kaepernick. If this turns out to be true, we are no longer in the realm of blackballing. We are talking about collusion. That could mean lawsuits. Not just ordinary lawsuits, but nine-figure lawsuits. Major League Baseball had to pay out $280 million in 1990, when it was found guilty of collusion, and anytime you’re dealing with the closed market of professional sports leagues, with their myriad antitrust provisions, collusion penalties can cost a fortune.
But I don’t think that Colin Kaepernick is going to go the litigation route. At least not now. He loves this sport and he wants to play. Only two questions remain: Will he get signed by a team when a quarterback inevitably goes down to injury, and will his name, until he’s on a roster, become synonymous with the silencing of the political athlete?
If an NFL player wants to speak out after the police murder of an unarmed child like Tamir Rice or after another racist killing, will teammates and agents tell him to be quiet for fear that he will be “Kaepernicked”? I don’t know the answer to the first question, but I feel very confident about the second one. Colin Kaepernick will be remembered as an inspiration. The reporters who have thrown dirt on him will be remembered only as the 21st-century iteration of the kind of racism that outspoken black athletes have always had to face.
BIG OIL ALLOWED TO TAKE LIVING MARINE RESOURCES IN CALIFORNIA “MARINE PROTECTED AREA”
by Dan Bacher
The enormous power that Big Oil exerts over California regulators was inadvertently revealed in a March 10, 2012 article in the Santa Barbara Independent that discussed a so-called “marine protected area” created under the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.
The official language for the marine protected area in the Isla Vista area of Santa Barbara County, the Campus Point State Marine Conservation Area, reads, “Take of all living marine resources is prohibited, except for take pursuant to operation and maintenance of artificial structures inside the conservation area … ”
“The caveat, allowing marine resources to be taken near artificial structures, exists to allow oil production representatives the ability to maintain equipment, including pipelines, located in this area,” the article by Cat Heushul stated.
Unfortunately, the reporter failed to mention that Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, actually served as the Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative to create this “marine protected area” and others like it in Southern California. She also served on the task forces to create “marine protected areas” on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast. If that is not a huge, glaring conflict of interest.
Meanwhile, Reheis-Boyd’s husband, James D. Boyd, first appointed by Governor Davis, sat on on the California Energy Commission from 2002 to 2012, including serving as Vice-Chair of the Commission from 2/2007 to 1/2012.
I realize that the oil industry needs to maintain its equipment near “artificial structures.” However, I find it ironic and disturbing that anglers are prevented from fishing in this so-called “Yosemite of the Sea” and “underwater park” off Isla Vista while the oil industry is allowed to “take” living marine resources.
In 2014, I called Zeke Grader, the long time executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations who passed away in September 2015, about a bill sponsored by Senator Hannah Beth Jackson to protect a marine protected area, the Vandenberg State Marine Reserve, from oil drilling, due to loopholes in both the California Coastal Sanctuary Act and the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative. Grader, who supported the bill, pointed out how the very need for the bill "highlights what a failure the MLPA Initiative was.”
“If these are true marine protected areas, they why are we allowing drilling and other insults to the ocean in them?” asked Grader. “The whole MLPA Initiative was a phony process that provided an opportunity for Big Green and government bureaucrats to write press releases claiming these were ‘protected areas’ when in reality the fishermen and Tribes got screwed. We should have bans on oil drilling in all of the marine protected areas.”
And guess who led the charge to defeat this bill and a similar bill to it, SB 788, sponsored by Senator Mike McGuire in 2015? Yes, the very same oil lobbyist, Reheis-Boyd, who oversaw the marine protection process on the South Coast led the opposition to both bills to protect “marine protected areas” from oil drilling!
State officials and MLPA Initiative advocates continually hailed the MLPA Initiative process chaired by the WSPA president as “open, transparent and inclusive” when it was anything but. In fact, the MLPA Initiative failed to protect the ocean from fracking, offshore oil drilling, pollution, military testing and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering. In fact, the oil industry fracked ocean waters off the Southern California waters off the Southern California at least 203 times over a 20 year period, according to an Associated Press investigation in 2013.
In spite of California’s “green” image, the state is the third largest oil producer in the nation, right behind North Dakota (second) and Texas (first). Big Oil, Big Ag and other corporate interests have captured the state’s regulatory apparatus by effectively buying off the regulators by spending many millions of dollars on lobbying every year and campaign contributions every election season.
During the 2015-2016 Legislative Session, the oil industry spent a historic $36.1 million to lobby California lawmakers and officials. During the last 6 years, the industry has spent $122 million in Sacramento, more than any other interest group.
Reheis-Boyd’s Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) was the top overall oil industry spender during the 2015-16 session, spending $18.7 million. Chevron, the second overall oil industry spender, spent $7 million in the 2015-16 session.
More recently, WSPA spent $1,387,601.97 from January 1 to March 31, 2017, for “general lobbying,” according to documents filed with the California Secretary of State.
WSPA and Big Oil use their money and power in 5 ways: through (1) lobbying; (2) campaign spending; (3) getting appointed to positions on and influencing regulatory panels; (4) creating Astroturf groups: and (5) working in collaboration with media.
On this World Oceans Day 2017, it's important that we work hard to get Big Oil money out of California politics and make California’s faux “marine protected areas” into real ones that actually protect the ocean, as the Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 mandates. For more information, go to: www.dailykos.com/…
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Craig Louis Stehr