- Brian Mendoza
- Campfire Smoke
- Mike Howell
- New Hotel
- Navarro Cut
- Working Holidays
- Empathy Fail
- County Code
- Little Dog
- Riggs Out
- Gowan In
- Promo Stats
- Outstanding Ballots
- Access Radio
- Night Sky
- Cease Fire
- Sea Glassing
- Yesterday's Catch
- Alemán Interview
- Collapse Follies
- Insane Courage
- Salacious Graft
- Moon Treaty
- Harari Vision
- School Shootings
- American Reich
BRIAN MENDOZA, 17, died early Friday evening when his car unaccountably left the pavement and hit a tree off Old River Road, which runs between Hopland and Ukiah. Brian is the son of Jose “Chato” Mendoza and Olga Mendoza, long-time residents of the Anderson Valley. Brian was a senior at Anderson Valley High School.
UNHEALTHY AIR (in red)
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE says: "The very dry late fall continues with mild afternoons and chilly nights. Areas of fog will impact portions of the coast, with hazy sunshine inland. Areas of smoke and haze will continue to expand across most of northwest California through mid-week...with little to no rain expected until perhaps next week."
RAIN? Weather models are showing about a 15 percent possibility of a weak system moving into the region Sunday night through Monday and a similar probability for a second system arriving Tuesday and delivering scattered showers through Thanksgiving Day on Thursday.
MICHAEL SCOTT (MIKE) HOWELL
1951 - 2018
Michael Howell died Nov 2, 2018 at the age of 67 from pancreatic cancer. He was born to Dick and Barbara Mapes Howell, July 14, 1951 in Berkeley, CA.
Mike is a graduate of Napa High School and Humboldt State University at Arcata, CA. When Mike was in high school, his father became a partner in Perry Gulch Ranch, located in Anderson Valley. This was the start of his love affair with the woods.
Mike worked for Shuster Logging right out of college, a year for Dan Duckhorn in St. Helena and then a number of years as a forester at Masonite in Ukiah. Mike Howell Consulting Forester, located in Boonville, has been the name of his own business for over thirty years, servicing clients in Mendocino, Sonoma and Humboldt County. Mike and his partner Timie Motl from the Masonite days worked many years together in Mike’s consulting business. They were especially popular with California Department of Forestry (CDF) inspectors. Their pre-harvest inspections were known as the Mikey and Timie show. Mike was well known for his great laugh and positive attitude. He was very proud of his business accomplishments and the clients he had, some over 30 years. One beloved client purchased adjoining land next to his timber property that had an old vineyard. This was the start of a second business for Mike, vineyard management and winemaking. He enjoyed rehabbing the old vineyard, developing additional vineyards, making wine, drinking wine and wine sales.
Mike was an avid duck hunter, belonging to a duck club in the Butte Sink called Sprig Meadows. He loved watching the sun rise and set over the refuge. These fearless duck hunters, especially Thomas Francis Malloy held a very special place in Mike’s heart. He was also a fly fisherman, fishing streams all over California, Oregon, Montana and Alaska. Mike would never turn down a game of golf with his mom at Silverado, he loved hitting the ball as far as he could, sometimes never finding it.
Mike was a long time member of the California License Forester Association (CLFA), a board member of the Mendocino County Planning Commission and Airport Commission and the Farm Bureau. Mike is survived by his wife, Julie Hunter-Howell (daughter Rose Vance), mother Bobbie Leverette, sister Leslie Howell-Cooley, brother Tim Howell (Janelle) and sisters Nancy Leverette and Linda Leverette. He is predeceased by his father Dick Howell, first wife Jane Howell, brother-in-law Dick Cooley and best friend and college buddy Lew Mason. A memorial will be announced at a later date. Memorial contributions can be made to California Waterfowl, 1346 Blue Oaks Boulevard, Roseville, CA 95678, or the charity of your choice.
NEW HOTEL PROPOSED FOR FORT BRAGG HAUL ROAD north of Fort Bragg
Wynn Coastal Planning & Biology is pleased to announce that we have submitted a proposal to the City of Fort Bragg for the creation of:
The Avalon Hotel – 65 guest rooms (comprised of three 3-story buildings, max heights of 35’)
Restaurant and Cocktail Bar/Lounge
3,064sf Event Center (1-story)
Parking for all uses, including 15 bicycle spaces
Climate-specific landscaping with walkways with educational signage, connecting to Haul Road
Highlighting green-building methods and Low-Impact Design features
Use of on-site water well for landscape irrigation
OWNER/APPLICANT: Robert Hunt, Hunt InnVestments (Fort Bragg native; owner of Beachcomber Motel, Surf & Sand Lodge, Beach House Inn)
* * *
The applicant is planning to build between the Haul Road and Highway 1 near where Airport Road intersects Highway 1. Four buildings in a triangular layout, three of them three-story (up to 35 feet high), plus the one-story “event center.” The project would appear to involve removal of an existing smaller motel on the parcel. The lot to the north is the old Baxman Sand & Gravel site, now GeoAggregates.
LOGGING? DOWNTOWN NAVARRO? MRC is marking out a large-scale cut for the redwoods that make Navarro, Navarro. Deep Enders are already complaining, and praying for rains, heavy rains. Much more about this one to come.
THE THING ABOUT VETERANS DAY is the same thing about Labor Day; and that is, that the veterans and the laborers all have to work on those holidays, while the ruling classes – the judges and bankers – all get the day off. (So there's no court Monday… Huh).
— Grandpa McEwen
AS AMERICANS BURNED ALIVE, their President’s first thought was money, threats and blame. He wasn’t even correct in his criticism — but even if he had been right, this was not the time to say it. All he had to do was offer a bit of empathy. Trump’s failure to say anything remotely resembling empathy for another 24 hours was not just appalling, it was totally unnecessary and self-defeating. Incredibly, this wasn’t even his worst empathy failure of the weekend. That came when he failed to honor slain American Marines because of the RAIN.
— Piers Morgan
HOW TO APPLY TO GROW POT LEGALLY
According to Supervisor John McCowen the problems pot growers have in getting permits are all at the state level.
(Note: This is not a practical joke)
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “Thanks for the yuks, folks!”
ARIZONA CHILDREN SPARED!
Riggs Out In Close Arizona Race
AN ARIZONA GOWAN WINS BIG
David Gowan / 1983 Ukiah High Graduate Wins Easily In Arizona
DURING the “Economic Vitality” presentation a week ago Tuesday at the Supes meeting, “Visit Mendocino” Director Alison DeGrassi told the Board that the “year over year increase in Transient Occupancy was 5%,” and that, allegedly, was not only a good thing for local tourism but solid evidence that she and her employer, Visit Mendocino, was well worth the million-plus funneled annually to Visit Mendo via our No Questions Asked Supervisors. If Visit Mendo disappeared tomorrow, we daresay visits to the County would continue to grow right along with the population growth to the south of us. We also think Visit Mendo is a waste of public money which, if spending priorities meant anything to the local leadership, the money saved would go to road maintenance, cops and emergency services who really need it.
MS. DeGRASSI invited interested persons to go to the County Assessor’s webpage to verify that “year over year” percentage. Given that an average of 30 people a week attend Supe’s meetings either in person or on-line, how many people are likely to try to decode the unintelligible numbers posted by Visit Mendo? We tried, which is how we know the numbers are unintelligible, not that we’re all that smart but we can pass basic math and reading tests.
SURPRISE! Apart from the minor point that the TOT table is on the tax collector’s webpage, not the assessor’s, the numbers don’t add up. And they certainly don’t reflect that the promotional efforts have any effect whatsoever on the number of people enjoying our Mendo splendors. (Why, just last week, doing my bit as a local ambassador of goodwill, I gave a group of Chinese tourists I encountered at Navarro several copies of Boonville’s beloved weekly. I must confess they shrank back at my approach but, introducing myself as Ang Mo Qui, they laughed and helped themselves. Translation: Ang Mo Qui means long-nosed devil in several Celestial dialects. Anyway, they got the joke and a precious memento of their pause in the redwoods.)
AS Ms. DeGrassi noted, some of the bed tax increase came from increased prices at local B&Bs because people were staying longer, and a good sized chunk was related to people displaced by fires sheltered in our local fleabags, er, motels.
IT TURNS OUT that the bed tax increase over the last three years is about 22.5%, or more than 7% “year over year.” But even then the amount on the Tax Collector’s page doesn’t match the “room occupancy tax” numbers on the Auditor’s spreadsheet.
But the point that the promotional people never mention is that — apart from the fire displacements — the bed tax is historically highly correlated with the sales tax revenue. However, in the last three years the bed tax increase has been substantially lower than the sales tax increase which was a whopping 36%. (We don’t think that trend is likely to occur this year, btw.)
SO, AS USUAL, we get self-serving stats from the promo gang — stats skewed to justify the million or two dollars (we defy anyone, including them, to produce the true figures) they get every year to fund their jaunts to wine and food events. These dollars should be spent on core services for all of us, not the relative handful of well-heeled gastro maniacs allegedly lured up here by the promo people. Promotional spending is a sanctioned theft of funds from more urgent services. Meanwhile, local fire victims can’t even get a break on their rebuilding permit fees.
MENDO CLERK-RECORDER, Susan Ranochak, has announced that as per local custom, there are ballots left to be processed as part of the official canvass. Mendocino County has 16,730 Vote By Mail ballots to process, and 1,011 Provisional ballots to review and process. Of the outstanding ballots left to count: the Third Supervisor District has 3,288; and the Fifth Supervisor District has 3,210 ballots to process and count. The City of Ukiah has 2,900; The City of Willits has 776; and the City of Fort Bragg has 1,300 ballots left to process and count. “Per State law, we have 30 days to complete the canvass. The Statement of Vote, which breaks down results by precinct, will be available at that time.”
THE ACCESS PROGRAM airs on KMEC and kmecradio105.1 on Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 10:30 to 11:30 AM.
Ted Williams, 5th Dist. Supervisor elect, is our guest.
So what would a new Supervisor want to see and can now say with the election past. According to the AVA the County has spent $5 million over budget in just four months this fiscal year. How will the new Board members balance the budget?
Norman de Vall, Host - The ACCESS Program
comments? suggestions? to: email@example.com
NIGHT LIGHTS OF THE NORTH COAST
CAMPING IN THE KING RANGE
by David Wilson
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean from Paradise Ridge in the King Range, southern Humboldt County, California.
Tap or click on the photos to see them larger.
The Fall Equinox of September 21, 2017 found me camping beneath the stars on Paradise Ridge in southern Humboldt’s King Range, a BLM-managed area of our beautiful and famous Lost Coast. Friends I’ve known since childhood had invited me out to join them for a night of stargazing and Milky Way photography in one of their huge glamping tents from their Wayward Glamping business. Early clouds as we set up our camp dampened my hopes for clear skies, but by nightfall the curtains had pulled apart to reveal the celestial show.
The views from Paradise Ridge are spectacular. To the west it overlooks the Pacific Ocean north of Shelter Cove and south of King Peak, the highest point in the range at 4091 feet. To the east of the ridge the view includes much of the South Fork Eel River watershed, and far beyond to the dim horizon. Because it is so remote, the King Range offers some of Humboldt’s darkest skies, which is perfect for astrophotography and stargazing.
As usual in my night photography, these photographs were taken with the light sensitivity (ISO) set extremely high, the lens opened wide, and a long exposure of nearly 30 seconds. With those settings, the camera captured the dimmest of light far better than my eye could. I couldn’t see as many stars with my naked eye, nor quite as much detail in the Milky Way. The tent was illuminated with the tiniest of lights, I think it was a single candle. It hardly made the canvas glow, as far as I could tell standing outside of it. Yet to the camera it was bright. My settings allowed it to catch the candlelight brightly, pick out the faintest stars, and bring forth the Milky Way’s detail. Ahh, photography.
If you were to try this yourself, make sure you either have a tripod or a sturdy and secure surface to support your camera. Set it to manual focus and focus near infinity. Put it on manual exposure, open the aperture wide, and set your shutter speed to 20-30 seconds. Set the ISO to the highest. Take the picture and examine it on the camera LCD screen for exposure. Zoom in to check focus. Make necessary adjustments and shoot again. Good luck and have fun!
To keep abreast of David Wilson’s most current photography or peer into its past, follow him on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx or his website mindscapefx.com, which Wilson says he updates less frequently.
We were in paradise. The sky blazed overhead with stars, galaxies, and flashing meteors, fishing boats scurried along the horizon, wildlife prowled about… but a good book is a good book!
WHEN THE GUNS FELL SILENT, 11 November 1918
VOTE COUNT DELAY
Several newspaper articles since the election have been critical of the delay in final results caused by mail-in ballots being returned on Election Day. Some have implied that those using mail-in ballots should vote earlier, missing out on potential vote-changing late information.
My precinct in Hessel has been deemed by the county to be too small to offer in-person voting, so my only choice is to vote by mail. I miss the sense of community and shared responsibility felt when voting at my polling site. Bringing a mail-in ballot to another local precinct on Election Day allows me and others to vote when most fully informed as well as to witness one of the best features of our government in action.
My problem could be fixed by offering polling sites for all voters. But for others, the convenience of mail-in voting will continue to be a draw. It is better to have more voters than to have immediate election results. All should have the patience to allow the voting and vote counting processes to be done right.
YAZ PERMANENTLY ON HOLD
Letter To The Editor:
Friends, the Truth is fragile these days. I am told that the AVA has reported that "my telephone is not blocked any more" and that, "I can call the Talk Shows at kzyx/z." This was supposedly told to the AVA by "someone at the station," whom I assume was the General Manager, or the Program Director.
I am here to tell everyone and anyone who cares, that kzyx/z has continued to block my telephone from being able to call our radio station, and as of today, November 12, 2018, that my phone is still blocked. I am still unable to call our "community" "public radio" station -- any and all of their four numbers.
This is a case of censorship, hypocrisy and denial of my rights to freedom of speech.
The AVA and KZYX/Z are lying. They are putting out FAKE NEWS and false information? Why? Ask them.
Once again, I request that you support my right to be heard on our Public Radio airwaves.
DJ Sister Yasmin
* * *
PS FROM YAZ
They have totally Blocked and Banned me!!
Now they have even blocked my emails! wow. Extreme Repression. I have emailed today the GM, the CAB and the Board, and all have been returned to me blocked, and also the KZYX.talk list too!
Heavy duty, and this from a so-called "community, 'public" radio station.
Please protest this fascism!!
DJ Sister Yasmin
TAKING GLASS FROM FORT BRAGG’S GLASS BEACH
MSP saw the following posted Monday to coast social media:
"This is a current post in a sea glass group. Just wanted to share it to show the popularity of the sea glass community.
I went to pick some pieces last week for a necklace I’m making and someone yelled at me telling me, saying they were going to call the police. I find it irritating that, while I pick up my own family’s trash, I get harassed, while it’s legal to do so in most areas down there.
Sea-glassing is a big hobby and people will be coming from all over the world to collect it. The City opened it up to the public (then shut their main cove entrance down), so until there are actual laws with clear boundaries, it’s unwise to harass.
If it’s to be protected, then it needs to be made clear and understood before people spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars to come here and collect. Laws should be clear in order to prevent people from altercations and such too."
To which someone commented:
"See, I really don’t care if you go to Noyo Beach or Pete’s Beach to collect. Have fun and be safe. Taking it from Glass Beach, the one of our main tourist attractions, is absolutely not cool. It’s sad we have to even have this conversation.
Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it something you should do with impunity. My wife and I would love to grab pieces from there but we also realize there won’t be a glass beach to take our future children to if people keep going down there and taking it. It’s called preservation.'
CATCH OF THE DAY, November 12, 2018
VADE BRADLEY, Little River. DUI-drugs&alcohol.
JERIMIE BURGER, Healdsburg/Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
JORGE CABADA-ZAZUETA, Redwood Valley. Domestic battery, domestic abuse, damaging power connecting line.
JONI DEARING, Fort Bragg. Failure to appear. (Frequent Flyer)
RICK DICKERSON II, Covelo. Domestic battery, protective order violation, probation revocation.
JAMES FINCH, Mills River, North Carolina/Ukiah. Indecent exposure.
TIMOTHY FISCHER, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
JEFFREY FRENCH, Ukiah. Resisting.
CENOBIO GARCIA, Ukiah. Domestic battery, protective order violation, probation revocation.
ACEA HENDERSON, Gualala. Attempted murder, assault with deadly weapon not a gun.
LAWRENCE JOAQUIN, Covelo. Probation revocation.
EDWARD JOHNSON, Ukiah. Probation revocation. (Frequent Flyer)
MICHAEL LOCKETT SR., Laytonville. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
JULIO NAJERA, Ukiah. Robbery, assault with firearm, ammo possession by prohibited person, felon/addict with firearm, community supervision violation, prison prior, conspiracy.
CHRISTOPHER NOVEL, Dickerson, Maryland/Ukiah. DUI-drugs&alcohol.
ON LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK
 Maybe it’s just me but I keep seeing people texting even on the narrow 2 lane parts of 101. They start drifting towards the edge then overcorrecting, it feels super dangerous to be driving behind that. Those console video screens for radio, etc. are pretty damn distracting too. You can’t look away on these narrower areas in particular — wait for a pullout please! There’s nothing between you and a car coming the other way besides two lines of paint and some reflectors. Much of 101 was not designed for high speed driving.
It’s not just the highway, read the comments of the pedestrian hit in Mckinleyville — witness saw driver on phone not paying attention. How do we deal with this problem? For real, does anyone have ideas?
 Even in the softest of starlight this has become obvious now. Trump is truly a devious son of a bitch. Much, much smarter than any of his adversaries will ever give him credit for. Trump is sort of a Yankeefied version of the Old Southern Country Lawyer. You know…the fella who has the chops to sit on the SCOTUS, but who never lets on how smart he is to his opponents in the courtroom. Just drawls on and on in a folksy Southern way until he puts the opposing counsel to sleep. Then he cuts their throats.
Trump’s version is more like a NY wiseguy, but it is essentially the same act. Behave like an average to below average schmuck while measuring your opponents for the casket you will bury them in. Whole libraries will one day be filled with books studying Trump’s devious techniques. He is the Sun Tzu of Manhattan.
 I am sure that you recall the old statement of being “all thumbs”. That phrase, for the young folk who aren’t learned in the ways of history, was a statement of ineptitude. Of being unable to do anything because the only fingers that were on your hands were thumbs, you know like the Dingleboxers of today. All they can do is tippy tap. They cannot work, they cannot build or solve, all they can do is tap, tap, tap, and there are far too many of them. All they have is thumbs. Those who cannot must have everything done for them and there are less and less of us that still do. Our workloads are huge and getting bigger. One day it will kill us off, but fortunately, at least for me, dying in the attempt is an honorable way to go. Another massive problem that will never be addressed is that in order to build or fix anything it is necessary to “offend" at least a few people in the process. With an agenda of nobody can be offended, well, then nothing can ever get done, or fixed, or even improved. Only the newest, shining Dingleboxes can be perpetrated upon the mindless minions without uproar and in the end, it will be their end, won’t it? Good.
SOMETHING HAS GONE VERY WRONG:
An interview with Ecuadoran Author Gabriela Alemán
by Jonah Raskin
“Crime is ubiquitous now. Globalization has facilitated that and the technology is there. You can be in the U.S. and empty out bank accounts in Bangladesh, Italy and China, or visa versa. Some of the stuff that’s happening all over the world is also happening right next door.”
– Gabriela Alemán, November 6, 2018
* * *
The Paris Review recently called Gabriela Alemán “a literary citizen of the Andes.” One might also call her a “citizen of the Americas,” and of the world as well. After all, her work has appeared in Chinese, Hebrew, French and Croatian; her fictional characters belong to the U.S., Germany, Ecuador, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Argentina.
Moreover, Alemán isn’t just a “literary citizen,” though that’s a fine thing to be, but also an overtly political citizen as so many writers from South America are today and have been, from Pablo Neruda and Carlos Fuentes to Gabriel García Márquez.
A journalist and a reporter as well as a novelist and a playwright, she was born in 1969 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the granddaughter of Ecuadorian poet, Hugo Alemán, and the daughter of the Ecuadorian diplomat Mario Alemán.
Her novel, Poso Wells, which was published by City Lights of San Francisco in English in 2018, originally appeared in Spanish in 2007. Novelist Dick Cluster did the translation.
A reviewer on Amazon wrote, “Poso Wells is a perfect compliment for the current political state of the United States and the hopelessness caused by constant access to terrible news via social media.” Indeed, it’s a freewheeling work of fiction that defies genres and mixes satire and surrealism, the literary and the political.
Body Time, her first novel, which is set in New Orleans, was originally published in Spanish in 2003. Smoke, which takes place in Paraguay, was published in 2017. It won the Joaquin Gallegos prize in Ecuador. The author of In the Pink County, a book for children, she has a Ph.D. from Tulane University in New Orleans where she taught Spanish.
For 45 days—from the end of August to the start of October—Alemán toured the U.S. to promote Poso Wells, reconnect with friends and revisit places from her own past.
The following interview was conducted by email over the course of several weeks when Alemán and I were both aware of the global drift toward the right—most notably in Brazil, where right-winger, Jair Bolsonaro, was elected president.
Where did you travel in the U.S.?
I started on the West Coast and finished on the East Coast. I crossed bits and pieces of Route 66, navigated the end of summer and the beginning of fall and I visited San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, New Orleans, Boone North Carolina, Washington D.C., Boston and New York.
Can you give us an idea of what kind of notes you made and photos you took?
I came back with more than a thousand photos. I also started an Instagram account to keep a record of the trip. I took pictures of the Sandia Mountains. (The light in New Mexico is incredible.) I did research on Georgia O´Keeffe and on the history of New Mexico, including the fascinating Apaches; so different from how they’re depicted in Westerns.
I searched for Ignatius J. Reilly´s statue in New Orleans to write a piece on John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces. In San Francisco, I interviewed Mauro Javier Cárdenas, the author of The Revolutionaries Try Again.
I also read Caleb Johnson’s Treeborne and his piece for The Paris Review about Gabriel García Márquez’s road-trip through the American South, where he and his family were turned away at a motel. They were mistaken for Mexicans and were as unwelcome as blacks. I want to write about Faulkner and South America, Dick Cluster’s translations from Spanish to English, and his novels, too, including his mystery, Return to Sender.
What really stands out about your time here?
Friendship. I have friends in all the cities where I stopped. I hadn’t been back in a long time, so the launch for Poso Wells coincided with a map of my affections.
Everyone went out of the way to make me feel at home. When I landed in New Orleans the hot muggy air reconnected me with my idea of home, that place where your body and spirit are at peace and you smile just because.
Looking back, in what ways do you think you were shaped by your previous experiences in the U.S.?
I was a child in N.Y. in the 1970s when you could feel a special energy in the city. My dad worked in the UN. When we visited him, we saw African leaders wearing lion skins, Arafat defending the Palestinian state and the young Gaddafi talking about Arab unity.
What else do you remember about that decade?
I think the 1970s were, in many ways, the last time the modern nation states of the West stood a chance. It was just before the rise of the corporate state, with the same structure as multinational corporations and the mafia, and with an esprit de corps. Now, wrongs aren’t corrected; they’re simply covered up.
For a time in the 1970s, New York was vibrant, wasn’t it?
The subway was 25 cents. All sorts of people, including “Bag Ladies,” traveled across the boroughs. Times Square was a zoo where people wore purple velvet. New Yorkers were not walking logos of Nike, Mango, Urban Outfitter or Adidas. Stadiums had real names without banks in their titles, and older Italian ladies lived next door to young Indian couples and newly arrived artists from all over the world.
New York has changed radically, hasn’t it?
N.Y. was the territory of possibility, the land where misfits had a place, and were people lived alongside each other without being judged because of their place of origin. It was a place of acceptance and a shared humanity where you could hear all the languages of the world. I learned to embrace difference and to recognize it as something positive.
What about the time you lived in Louisiana?
Pre-Katrina New Orleans was one of the most “violent” cities in the U.S., but it was also where people shared common ground, mostly in the streets, on parades, at Mardi Gras and just plain hanging out with different people ‘cause it’s so damn hot. A sense of community existed in New Orleans, and as the late great Kurt Vonnegut taught us, only community will save us.
What are your biggest impressions of the U.S. in 2018?
Two things stand out: gentrification destroying communities and the precariousness of employment and not being able to survive with only one job. Forget about savings. That mix has a lot to do, I believe, with today’s toxic political climate.
How is the U.S. different now than it was on your last visit?
Previously, people spoke in cafés. Revolutions were plotted and people flirted there. This time, it felt like I was invading some private space where people went to work or chatted on different machines. Of course, every now and then, people did talk.
What about the homeless?
When I walked next to homeless people in D.C., right in front of the White House—and in New Orleans, San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, New York and Boston—people around them didn´t seem to see them. It was as if they had blocked them out. They were so “Other” that they seemed to no longer exist. The homeless I got a chance to talk to hadn't opted out of the system. Rather, they had been expelled from it. It seemed symptomatic of something gone very wrong.
Can you give an example of a homeless person you met?
On Royal Street in New Orleans, I spoke with a veteran who had a dog. I asked if that was complicated. He told me that apart from the dog’s company it was a good way of not being arrested. I probably had a perplexed look on my face because he went on to explain that the police couldn’t jail the dog or separate him from its owner. Cruelty to animals, you know.
Can you say more about the transformation of New Orleans?
When I saw a yoga studio, I knew the neighborhood was shot. The Ninth Ward used to be the funkiest in New Orleans. Not anymore.
The market where crawfish was sold is now a gaudy diner the likes of which can be found in any global high-end neighborhood. It shined, yes, but life seemed to have been sucked out of it. Across the street, a house had been turned into a spiritual center. Still, if you walk out of the touristy spots, life goes on.
Did you see something, anything, good or positive?
Public libraries have to be among the best things in the U.S., and librarians are among my favorite people in the world. Ray Bradbury wrote some of his books in his neighborhood library. I walked into public libraries in San Francisco, Oakland, Albuquerque, Flushing and Fairfax County, Virginia. They were packed.
It’s not the first time, but we now have, it seems to me, a criminal in the White House, an arch criminal at that. How do you view Donald Trump?
When the U.S. elections for president were underway, the whole world was watching. You weren’t only electing your president. You were electing the way the world was going to turn for the next four years (and much more than those four years), especially with U.S. foreign policy. We couldn´t believe he was elected. It still doesn’t make sense that Trump lost by three million votes, but because of your electoral system he won anyway.
If you were to write a murder mystery set in the U.S. what crime or crimes might your private investigator get caught up in?
Crime is ubiquitous now. Globalization has facilitated that and the technology is here, too. You can be in the U.S. and empty bank accounts in Bangladesh, Italy and China or visa versa. Some of the stuff that’s happening all over the world is also happening right next door: money laundering, organ and sex trafficking, privatization of water, election rigging through “Big Data” and algorithms, as well as fracking. Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s not a crime.
Why do you think the murder mystery is so popular the world over?
The appeal of crime fiction grows because of the way institutions are perceived. There’s a latent distrust of them. In Latin America, one tends to avoid the police, instead of asking them for help. In many large U.S. cities that’s also the case, especially if you’re black and Latino.
In the fantastic world of comic books, Spiderman, Ironman and Wonder Woman are appealing because they’re above corrupt law and also help the people. An ethical outsider—someone who upholds ideals and, along the way, shows the underbelly of class, race and gender politics—there will never be enough of that.
What is the appeal for you to write murder mystery?
What’s there not to like? There’s adventure, social commentary, humor, confrontation with corruption and greed. Naomi Klein said that one of the great triumphs of neo-liberalism was getting people to think that there are no alternatives to it.
Detective fiction/science fiction/eco-thrillers suggest different outcomes and make them visible. In my novel, Poso Wells, a community of misfits—a battered woman, an old man, a journalist and a poet, with the help of a German shepherd—unmask political corruption. The novel ends with some hope, after crossing tunnels of darkness.
I believe that in Ecuador there are no private investigators, at least not in the way they exist in the U.S. Why do you think that is?
One possible explanation would be the level of impunity in most of Latin America. If you have power, money and connections, you will not pay for your crimes. And, thinking about private investigators going after illicit affairs, we’ve got nosy neighbors here. It’s hard to hide secrets.
What thoughts do you have about why California produced two exemplary murder mystery writers, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler?
If you read Mike Davis’s books—City of Quartz, Planet of Slums, Ecology of Fear, Evil Paradises and In Praise of Barbarians—you get a good inkling of why that is. In one of his books, he says that to get an alternative to the official history of L.A. you have to read the noir novelists: James M. Cain, Horace McCoy, Nathanael West, Chester Himes, and Hammett in San Francisco. In Chinatown, the great noir film, the plot revolves around political corruption and water.
When your friends in Ecuador see you again after this visit to the U.S. what will you say to them?
N.Y. is not Ohio and Baton Rouge is not San Francisco. The citizens of all those different places are not the government, much less representative of what the CIA has plotted all over the world for decades. It takes crossing the U.S. to realize how big it is. San Francisco was cold in August. Albuquerque and New Orleans were in the high 80s in September. Fall hadn’t started in October in N.Y., but four hours away in Boston, it was in full bloom.
What’s the future of the U.S.?
The ideal of the public good does not seem to be on the political agenda. Things that were once synonymous with the U.S. are gone: infrastructure, water, light, medicine and education. There were water cuts in New Mexico while I was there. The lights go out with regularity. Roads and dams need repair and citizens need medical attention and education. Things are starting to collapse.
Thank you, Gabriela.
(Jonah Raskin is the author of For The Hell of It: The Life and Times of Abbie Hoffman and American Scream: Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ and the Making of the Beat Generation.)
ROCK THE VOTE
by James Kunstler
It warmed my heart to read in The Wall Street Journal that Hillary Clinton is preparing to re-enter the Washington DC swamp from her deluxe exile in the woods of Chappaqua, New York, and make another run for the White House — though it’s hard to calculate how many porters in sandals and loincloths will be required to lug all her baggage around the campaign trail. Will hubbie hit the hustings with her? That would be rich. I can just imagine the pussy-hatted legions shrieking #MeToo at every stop. Surely there is no better way to put the Democratic Party out of its misery.
The post-election melodramas in Georgia and Florida grind on, despite the various rules and laws about deadlines for certifying ballots and accounting for their origin. What is a ballot after all but a mere scrap of paper, easily reproducible, and interchangeable. Sometimes, they make strange journeys out of election headquarters in trucks and SUVs, seeking fun and excitement, and they have been known to mysteriously turn up by the hundredweight in broom closets where they retreat to caucus. Only one thing is certain: the ballot fiasco is a billable hours bonanza for DC lawyers arriving on the scene to sort things out — which they may not manage anyway.
If the vote count somehow remains in favor of the provisional winners — Republicans Rick Scott, Ron DeSantis (Fla), and Brian Kemp (Ga) — you can be sure we’ll be in a frenzy of sore loserdom that will make the Medieval ergot outbreaks of yore look like episodes of Peewee’s Playhouse. If the provisional votes get overturned, the attorneys billable hours will quickly exceed the national debt, and we’ll find ourselves in a new era where the free citizens of this republic can‘t be trusted to the simple task of counting ballots, or even holding elections in the first place.
This epic confusion is of a piece with a prediction I made about what happens to government in The Long Emergency: it becomes impotent and ineffectual, and can no longer be depended on to carry out the simplest tasks. The process goes from the top down. At each step, the public loses faith that government can accomplish anything. The Trust Horizon shrinks away from distant authorities… the DC Swamp, the state capitals, and soon the people don’t believe anything or anyone they can’t reach by throwing a rock.
And so we enter a new stage of collapse. It will be made very much more emphatically worse as the money issues underlying this American malaise unravel in the months ahead. The reason that nothing will be done is that nothing can be done about the country’s intractable technical bankruptcy. The wealth we assumed was there is a fiction and will be expressed in plunging asset values, especially stocks and real estate. And any attempt to “fix” that by the Federal Reserve and its TBTF handmaidens moving to stop losses will only redirect the destruction to the currency itself. When citizens trust neither government nor their money, really bad things happen.
This polity is too far gone in lying to itself for official corrections to avail. Sometimes the only corrective is sheer failure. At least it presents the option of starting over. Of course, Mr. Trump made the fatal mistake of claiming ownership of a “miracle” economy that is about to get stranded on the beach like a dying grunion. His inclination, I’m sure, will be to pretend loudly that nothing is wrong — even as the new model pickup trucks gather dust unsold on the car lots, and the “for sale” signs multiply on lawns everywhere, and the pink slips land at the cubicle workstations, and the skeleton crews of waiters stand around the empty Olive Gardens and Chipotles playing liar’s poker with their depreciating dollars.
Meanwhile, the new Democratic majority congress prepares to ramp up its longed-for multi-committee inquisition against Trump and Trumpism, and the Republican Senate will counter-punch with binders of criminal referrals against the superstars of the Resistance. C-Span will be livelier and more colorful than the WWE Wrestlemania round-robin, midget division.
(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon Page.)
LIKE YOU, I grapple with this riddle every day. Yesterday the local LA news showed a man wearing a surgical mask to minimize his smoke inhalation, using a garden hose in a feeble and pathetic attempt to water down the embers of his house, which was completely burned down. When the camera pulled back, you could see that his car and his SUV had also been burned into twisted gray sculptures, barely recognizable as vehicles any more. It looked like Iraq after our magical Shock and Awe attack. The TV reporter didn’t even try to hide her bewilderment: the area was under an evacuation order, little snake-like flames were flicking up out of nowhere as embers drifted on the Santa Anna wind, the man’s surgical mask was useless against the smoke, and the house was completely gone. But still he stood there at the edge of the wreckage, aiming his slender green garden house against the leaping embers, a dribble of water against the all-powerful fire. I became somewhat obsessed by this guy. He was obviously, in that moment, completely insane, not to put too fine a point on it. The fight was over. Fire had won; human beings had lost. And yet there was a poignant kind of courage in the man that I couldn’t help but admire. If all you have to fight with is a garden hose, then you fight with a garden hose. Maybe you can salvage one single keepsake—one photograph of your grandfather; one set of earrings you bought for your wife twenty years ago…
— John Eskow
SALACIOUS R. GRAFT
Senator Salacious R. Graft
Smooths his tie and then laughs
As he pockets another fat bribe
Yes, he thinks himself cunning
(His denial, it is stunning!)
And that's why he earns this diatribe
He prefers to consider
The will of the high bidder,
Betrays common folk without a thought
But to each corporate predator
He's their favorite Senator
Whose every last stance can be bought!
He craves power and money,
Thinks corruption is funny,
An apt means to his self-centered end
All the laws that he signs
Are but meaningless lines
Of rules he feels entitled to bend!
He perverts his authority
To hurt women and minorities;
White male privilege is his favorite hobby
He's quite happy to derail
Aid for the sick or frail
While kissing butts of the drug or gun lobby!
His behavior suggests
He's above all the rest
As he plunders for profit his nation
But his heart's clearly seen
As small, rancid and mean;
His existence is pure degradation!
Salacious R. Graft
Should be given the shaft
For he’s proven himself such a jackass
By abuses so ample
He's the perfect example
Of the modern-day criminal class!
WHITEY‘S ON THE MOON!
Space Treaty Project: Implementation Agreement for the Moon Treaty
Friends and Colleagues,
Over the past two months it has become more apparent that, when it comes to the development and settlement of outer space, the best alternative to militant nationalism is the Moon Treaty, provided it has the proper Implementation Agreement. The goal now is to produce such an Agreement to facilitate humanity’s departure from the home planet.
Attached is the final version of the paper that I submitted to the Journal of the International Institute of Space Law. It focuses on the legal concerns of free enterprise and of those seeking to establish permanent human settlements on the Moon and elsewhere. It details nine overall concerns and makes suggestions as to how the Implementation Agreement would address them. These suggestions are based on the implementation agreement for the Convention on the Law of the Seas, which revived that agreement in the 1990’s and allowed it to be adopted by 187 countries.
The paper is slightly modified from the one I presented at the International Astronautical Congress in Bremen, Germany last month. The IISL requires that it not be published in any manner that can be accessed by the general public. You are welcome to share privately, but please do not post on any public platform.
There are three way you can help:
- Make Suggestions: The current proposal is based on extensive research and peer review, but there are probably other concerns and proposals that have not been fully integrated. Please read the paper, and when you reach a point where you think “That won’t work” or “That doesn’t address one of my concerns” or “I have a better idea”, please send me your comments. The more comprehensive the Agreement, the more likely it will be adopted.
- Sign the Petition: The Project has started an online petition calling for adoption of the Moon Treaty, located at
It currently has 381 signatures but needs many more. Please consider signing and forwarding to like-minded people and organizations. For more information about the Project and space law in general, go to
- Networking/Fundraising: After a year of building a foundation, the Space Treaty Project must now establish a broader network of people and organizations who support the Moon Treaty. It must also secure additional funding to expand its work and become an ongoing presence, both online and at scientific conferences. If you or your organization wish to become part of this effort or have any suggestions concerning funding, please respond to this email directly. You can also make donations and/or purchase the book Major Tom at http://www.spacetreaty.org. All proceeds from the sale of the book will be dedicated to the Project.
Finally, a report from the Congress. Although severe back pain kept me from networking as much as I wanted, I was able to give my speech on the Moon Treaty. It was well received; when I returned to my seat, the young professionals near me had a spark in their eyes that had not been there before. I believe that many will respond to the call to create an Implementation Agreement for the Moon Treaty, but they need to know that the effort is real.
Thank you for you interest and support. If you do not wish to receive any more updates, please respond with the word “unsubscribe” in the subject field.
PS – I have recently been interviewed about space law on Radio Curious, a half-hour weekly radio show that is syndicated on the Pacifica Network. You can listen to it at http://www.radiocurious.org/2018/10/23/dennis-obrien-protecting-outer-space-for-humanity/.
“No way — I’m also doing ‘No Shave November’!”
TECHNOLOGY AND THE CREATION OF A "USELESS CLASS"
From yesterday's NY Times:
The futurist philosopher Yuval Noah Harari worries about a lot.
He worries that Silicon Valley is undermining democracy and ushering in a dystopian hellscape in which voting is obsolete.
He worries that by creating powerful influence machines to control billions of minds, the big tech companies are destroying the idea of a sovereign individual with free will.
He worries that because the technological revolution’s work requires so few laborers, Silicon Valley is creating a tiny ruling class and a teeming, furious “useless class.”
But lately, Mr. Harari is anxious about something much more personal. If this is his harrowing warning, then why do Silicon Valley C.E.O.s love him so?
“One possibility is that my message is not threatening to them, and so they embrace it?” a puzzled Mr. Harari said one afternoon in October. “For me, that’s more worrying. Maybe I’m missing something?”
...Part of the reason might be that Silicon Valley, at a certain level, is not optimistic on the future of democracy. The more of a mess Washington becomes, the more interested the tech world is in creating something else, and it might not look like elected representation. Rank-and-file coders have long been wary of regulation and curious about alternative forms of government...
Mr. Harari, thinking about all this, puts it this way: “Utopia and dystopia depends on your values.”
Mr. Harari, who has a Ph.D. from Oxford, is a 42-year-old Israeli philosopher and a history professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The story of his current fame begins in 2011, when he published a book of notable ambition: to survey the whole of human existence. “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind,” first released in Hebrew, did not break new ground in terms of historical research. Nor did its premise — that humans are animals and our dominance is an accident — seem a likely commercial hit.
But the casual tone and smooth way Mr. Harari tied together existing knowledge across fields made it a deeply pleasing read, even as the tome ended on the notion that the process of human evolution might be over. Translated into English in 2014, the book went on to sell more than eight million copies and made Mr. Harari a celebrity intellectual.
He followed up with “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow,” which outlined his vision of what comes after human evolution. In it, he describes Dataism, a new faith based around the power of algorithms. Mr. Harari’s future is one in which big data is worshiped, artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence, and some humans develop Godlike abilities.
Now, he has written a book about the present and how it could lead to that future: “21 Lessons for the 21st Century.” It is meant to be read as a series of warnings. His recent TED Talk was called “Why fascism is so tempting — and how your data could power it.”
His prophecies might have made him a Cassandra in Silicon Valley, or at the very least an unwelcome presence. Instead, he has had to reconcile himself to the locals’ strange delight. “If you make people start thinking far more deeply and seriously about these issues,” he told me, sounding weary, “some of the things they will think about might not be what you want them to think about.”
...At the Alphabet talk, Mr. Harari had been accompanied by his publisher. They said that the younger employees had expressed concern about whether their work was contributing to a less free society, while the executives generally thought their impact was positive.
Some workers had tried to predict how well humans would adapt to large technological change based on how they have responded to small shifts, like a new version of Gmail. Mr. Harari told them to think more starkly: If there isn’t a major policy intervention, most humans probably will not adapt at all.
It made him sad, he told me, to see people build things that destroy their own societies, but he works every day to maintain an academic distance and remind himself that humans are just animals. “Part of it is really coming from seeing humans as apes, that this is how they behave,” he said, adding, “They’re chimpanzees. They’re sapiens. This is what they do.”
...he brought up Aldous Huxley. Generations have been horrified by his novel “Brave New World,” which depicts a regime of emotion control and painless consumption.
Readers who encounter the book today, Mr. Harari said, often think it sounds great. “Everything is so nice, and in that way it is an intellectually disturbing book because you’re really hard-pressed to explain what’s wrong with it,” he said. “And you do get today a vision coming out of some people in Silicon Valley which goes in that direction.”
An Alphabet media relations manager later reached out to Mr. Harari’s team to tell him to tell me that the visit to X was not allowed to be part of this story. The request confused and then amused Mr. Harari. It is interesting, he said, that unlike politicians, tech companies do not need a free press, since they already control the means of message distribution...
Everyone in Silicon Valley is focused on building the future, Mr. Harari continued, while most of the world’s people are not even needed enough to be exploited. “Now you increasingly feel that there are all these elites that just don’t need me,” he said. “And it’s much worse to be irrelevant than to be exploited.”
The useless class he describes is uniquely vulnerable. “If a century ago you mounted a revolution against exploitation, you knew that when bad comes to worse, they can’t shoot all of us because they need us,” he said, citing army service and factory work.
Now it is becoming less clear why the ruling elite would not just kill the new useless class. “You’re totally expendable,” he told the audience.
This, Mr. Harari told me later, is why Silicon Valley is so excited about the concept of universal basic income, or stipends paid to people regardless of whether they work. The message is: “We don’t need you. But we are nice, so we’ll take care of you.”
On Sept. 14, he published an essay in The Guardian assailing another old trope — that “the voter knows best.”
“If humans are hackable animals, and if our choices and opinions don’t reflect our free will, what should the point of politics be?” he wrote. “How do you live when you realize...that your heart might be a government agent, that your amygdala might be working for Putin, and that the next thought that emerges in your mind might well be the result of some algorithm that knows you better than you know yourself? These are the most interesting questions humanity now faces.”
...Being gay, Mr. Harari said, has helped his work — it set him apart to study culture more clearly because it made him question the dominant stories of his own conservative Jewish society. “If society got this thing wrong, who guarantees it didn’t get everything else wrong as well?” he said.
“If I was a superhuman, my superpower would be detachment,” Mr. Harari added. “O.K., so maybe humankind is going to disappear — O.K., let’s just observe"...
THE INTERSECTIONS! California burning down, Venice drowning, cars by the road with everything combustible gone, skeletons driving, neighbors weeping into their cell phones, global warming gone insane, Islam off the rails, the world's most powerful country, US!, half in, half out of the grip of lunatics, puny Russia acting like the Russian Bear of old (with an economy smaller than Italy's), Antarctica gradually becoming snowless and iceless, Hondurans heading for America like lemmings for cliffs--on and on and on.
In the middle of all this, language is changing. It's so tempting to use harsh language (fuck!) to describe existence on this hard-pressed planet (shit!) that people are doing it in their published (e- and actual print) work everywhere. Morphing to accommodate people who mostly read in tiny bites--texts, mini-blogs, etc.--writing has relocated things like grammar and syntax, punctuation, capitalization and courtesy to the old-age home.
In lots of ways this is good. Language needs to be bendable and changeable to keep up with swiftly changing times, and change, in language, often enriches it. France has tried forever--and officially--to keep French "pure," which is hopeless and ridiculous as patrons of the Hot Club du Jazz are happy to tell you. Likewise, Strunk & White's: "The Elements of Style," and the "Chicago Manual of Style" have heroically sought to tame English without doing it. Where in hell do you put the comma, the hyphen, the dash? The answer is, who cares?
(I care. I approve of freedom in creative work, even, within strict limits, in journalism, but understandability comes ahead of it.)
Anybody remember ISIS? They're still out there, and they still want to kill you, but Donald Trump, with a couple lifetimes worth of publicity-seeking, has an amazing knack for drawing all eyes to his inconsequential bullshit and away from things that matter. God knows what he'll be blathering (and blubbering) as they walk him from his cell to the guillotine.
So, given all this stuff happening to us and around us at once, it's easy to fall into a nervous tizzy. I have. Watching my entire world go to hell has an oddly discombobulating effect on me, and I feel it, or think I feel it, all around, at check stands and especially at this computer.
Still, science marches on. In places where research is done, they're mostly too busy to watch Fox News--and too smart. Where medicine is being applied and medical science practiced, ditto. Life and death trump Trump. Mechanics are up to their armpits in wheezy cars and airplanes stay aloft until time to not.
We'll make it through all this, my friends, if we check our feet every now and then to make sure they're still planted firmly, if we wisecrack with our neighbors and the person sitting on the next stool, if we don't take any one part of this Big Disruption too seriously. We might, one day, thank Trump for calling out all the devils in the human--and especially the American--psyche and showing them for the malevolent, trivial things they are.
There are still immutable things, like the concept of Good, like altruism, bravery, kindness, generosity, love, puppies and kittens, sunshine--we still have a lot to build on--and with--and the building continues. If a stupid, misguided President makes us smarter and better, we could luck out of this period as better creatures than we are, and that's the name of the game!
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
My local Chipotle does not have waiters. It reminds me more of my old high school cafeteria where for 35 cents, students could get a hot lunch back in the early 1960’s. These days, lunch at Chipotle sets me back about $8 but I am glad I have the money to pay the bill. If you are wondering what life in these disUnited States might look like in a few years, read the first few chapters of William Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”.
Now that I can see age 70 in the rear view mirror, I am not as concerned about the future, but relate more to the past. My crisis moment, if you want to call it that, came a few nights after Bush 43 formally announced his support for a marriage amendment to the US constitution at his February 2004 State of the Union address to Congress and the nation. I dreamed that I had been arrested and sent to a concentration camp on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. In my dream, it looked exactly the one at Thereisenstadt, a former military base in the Czech lands that had been turned into a ghetto/concentration camp by the Nazis for older and prominent Jews during WWII. Fortunately, I woke up before I found out what happened to me. In reality, most Jews sent to this camp either died there from bad living conditions or were sent on at a later date to one of the extermination camps in Nazi occupied Poland.
Now, almost 15 years after my nightmare, life is pretty good for me, which is more than one could say for millions of Americans who were hornswoggled into believing that their problems would be solved if only they voted for politicians who wanted to ban abortions and gay marriage. Hitler’s war against the Jews had been turned into a Republican-lite war against gay Americans and abortion doctors.