Thursday, December 22, 2016

50 Songs to Commemorate the Death of the Great American Experiment in Democracy

Posted By on Thu, Dec 22, 2016 at 8:24 AM

Here's a bunch of music that in some way or another might provide you with some sonic shelter from this particular storm that's a-brewin'.

1. Sister Rosetta Tharpe

“Didn’t It Rain”
Oh, but didn’t it rain, my brothers and sisters. Rained 2,800,000 popular votes in favor of the losing candidate. Rained vile, nutty outbursts that continue to this day in the terror-tweeter moment. And now it is cold, soooooo cold, the Putin vortex cometh, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe is singing for the swinging kids of London, circa the mid-sixties and live on a train platform. Oh, man, didn’t it rain. Dance between the raindro ps, in a spirit of celebration and defiance.

2. Rainbow
“Can’t Happen Here”
Or can it? Has it? What happened, Ritchie Blackmore? Here's a hard-rock classic from the early eighties that sort of spells out an oil-fouled future as seen through the bulging white slacks of Joe Lynn Turner, vocalist.

3. Missing Foundation
"Kingsland ’61"
Missing Foundation was a legendary New York band, if you can even call them that, who were on to this whole "1933, the Party's Over" business long before Glenn Beck put on a Christmas sweater and asked us all to forget about his past sins. This track is a total brain-scraper and you'll quickly appreciate its uses as a primal-therapy tool—let it be your guide to an anarcho-cathartic release of a most gratingly angry variety.

4. John Brown’s Body
“Orange and Gold”
John Brown was an American abolitionist hero of the first order who lived in the Adirondack mountains of New York. John Brown's Body is a American Reggae band from Ithaca, New York. Orange is the color of American fascism. The toilets are gold and you know what they are full of.

5. Drive By Truckers
“Surrender Under Protest”
American Band was a great 2016 release from Drive-By Truckers, a kick-it-easy Southern-altrock offering with punchy, poignant lyrics that take on all sorts of rolling American injustices and political issues and is definitely not your daddy's "Sweet Home Alabama," Kid Rock.

6. Johnny Cash
"The Battle Hymm of the Republic"
Gee whiz, I am trying not to be divisive or anything here—I know how those Trump people really want us all to stand together, as one, and kiss the ring (or else)—and so I thought this offering from Johnny Cash might serve as a kind of olive branch to our friends in the alt-right Confederacy of their hate-damaged minds. In the lead-in to this performance on his short-lived TV show, Cash talks about how he could imagine soldiers on either side of the war of Northern Aggression singing this patriotic classic as they headed home and into the loving arms of their webbed-feet children. Well he doesn't actually say that.

7. Fiona Apple,
“Trump’s Nuts Roasting on an Open Fire”
Not really sure what message Fiona is trying to convey here in this nuanced Christmas offering to the president elect but she seems to be suggesting that we cook his testicles. Trump McNuggets? Ewwww. I don't about that, Fiona, but this stuff is pretty funny.

8. Boyd Rice
“Total War”
A cartoon character that looks suspiciously like Donald Duck, and is carrying a giant Swastika on his back while meat-faced men in fascist-chic attire make menacing faces? That sounds about alt-right. Boyd Rice is this kind of scary and somewhat inscrutable musician-provocateur whose art-fuck heyday included a notoriously knife-wielding picture taken with the leader of the American Front, which ran in the pages of Sassy. He says it was a prank and if the Wikipedia entry is to be believed, he's a Social Darwinist and an authoritarian, and if a 2006 Stormfront posting entry on him is to be believed, Rice is not a Neo-Nazi but would rather you just called him a fascist. Okay then. I guess this is the sort of alt-right nomenclature stuff we have to get used to.

9. The MC5
"The American Ruse"
The MC5 were the revolutionary White Panther vanguard rockers of the 1960s, probably best known for the barn-burning "Kick Out the Jams." But this grooving little slice of agit-rock feels right up our current alley, it's a total killer, and here they are playing it on British TV. Plus they were from Detroit, which is in Michigan, which is where this year's sinister Russian ruse played out, if those reports about Paul Manafort's electoral counsel to Trump are to be believed, and why not?

10. Patti Smith
"A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall"
Speaking of the MC5, Patti Smith (who was married to MC5 guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith) was asked to perform at the Nobel event honoring Bob Dylan’s award this year. An extraordinary moment ensued. Smith stumbled partway through the iconic song and it came to a hard, awkward stop, mid-verse. Patti soldiered on after an apology to the audience, and not long after, there was another moment of potential stumble—but this time she persevered and pushed through to the rousing, uplifting end. Lots of people watched this and thought she stumbled in a moment of clarity about our times, the clear menace afoot, the hard rain is already falling. The imperfection of the performance rendered it to an exquisite, humble perfection, sort of in the Japanese tradition of kintsugi, where you repair broken pottery with gold, highlighting the breaking point as the source of strength.

11. Sonic Youth
"Teenage Riot"

C'mon millennial kids, time to hit the streets. I hope it works out your way. This map says it should, right? 

12. Mark Arm
"Masters of War"
The Mudhoney frontman put out this version on the Dylan classic around the same time everyone started wondering about this kid Kurt Cobain, and this will be the last time I mention or highlight a Dylan track in this list and will warn readers in advance that there are no Nirvana songs coming up. The lyrics to "Master of War" are extremely bitter and brittle, and Arm's delivery does the song total justice.

13. The Exploited
The best part about this classic from Scottish punks the Exploited is when lead singer Wattie Buchan calls the White House and gets hooked up with a secretary in the executive branch. "Can I speak to Mr. Reagan please?"  No, but have a nice day. Republicans used to be so pleasant. Whatever happened?

14. Mariee Sioux
"Two Tongues"
I saw Mariee Sioux perform this First Nations song not long ago in Pt. Reyes and have listened to it just about every day since then, a welcome, gentle, trippy earworm for this season of the mean. The fork-tongued people have indeed stolen our Democracy, lies and betrayals as far as the eye can see, and she sees right through it like a candle in a buffalo's eye.

15. Zero Boys
"Civilization’s Dying"
Apparently some Norwegian futurist-scholar who looks like Bernie Sanders predicted everything correctly in recent years, including the fall of the Soviet Union, and he recently predicted that the American Empire will collapse by 2020, regardless of who is nuking North Korea. At least we have the Zero Boys as we dance on our own grave.

16. Neil Young
"Keep on Rockin' in the Free World"
For now, at least. In the meantime, Neil, stop hanging up on reporter-fanboys from Newsweek when they ask you a question you don't like. That's straight out of the Trump media handbook, and it's unseemly.  

17. The Ramones
"The KKK Took My Baby Away"
"I'll take classic punk songs for $600, Alex."
"This Ramones song is reportedly about how right-wing Johnny stole left-wing Joey's girlfriend, and is not, as some have suggested, Steve Bannon and Ivanka Trump's plan for subsidized child care under the Trump administration."
"What is the KKK Took My Baby Away, Alex?"
"Right you are!"

18. The National
"Start A War"
This song isn't about starting an actual war but it does have a choice lyric that I think of whenever someone mentions how Hillary big-footed the Democrat primaries this year: “We expected something, something better than before. We expected something more.” Maybe next time.

19. The Chills
"Pink Frost"
Not your president? Not your country? Thinking of taking a little respite from the ol' U.S.A. as it sorts out its problem? You might consider New Zealand as an alternative to moving to Canada. For one thing, the music scene is way cooler, they don't like nuclear bombs, and haunting songs like this one from the Chills come complete with ugly sweaters that are nevertheless kind of comforting and lord knows I could use some comfort right about now in this year of the chilling effect.

20. Gorecki
"Symphony of Sorrowful Songs"
I first listened to Gorecki's Third Symphony around 2009 and in very short order it became one of my all-time favorite pieces of recorded music, on the list between the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" and Big Mama Thornton's take on "Wade in the Water." I can't write about it or I'll start weeping again, sorry.

21. Nina Simone
"Mississippi Goddamn"
...and she means every word of it.

22. Iron Maiden
"Run to the Hills"
The Canadian Rockies are pretty hilly, but they do have mountains in New Zealand as well, big ones. (see #19)

23. Pharaoh Sanders
"The Creator Has a Master Plan"
And perhaps he does. I'd like to see his tax returns while we're at it.

24. Jimi Hendrix
"Machine Gun"

On the advice of the High Holy Hippies of Bolinas, I've decided that I'm “gonna pick up my axe and fight like a farmer," just like Jimi. This guitar will kill fascists dead.

25. Eminem
"Campaign Speech"
There are some extremely wicked, raw and aggressive anti-Trump rhymes on this Slim Shady election-season outburst. And then there's lines like "got slapped with a Colin Kaepernick practice sock." I pledge allegiance to this extremely nasty piece of music. 

26. The Rolling Stones
"Commit a Crime"
The Stones Blue & Lonesome is the album of the year and "Commit A Crime" is pretty much exactly what just happened and continues to happen in the criminal kleptocrat conspiracy now coming into harsh relief. I wrote about this album recently and considered it the best news of 2016, but in reality it's the second-best news of 2016. The best news of 2016 in these parts is none of your business but see #27 for a hint.

27. Sly and the Family Stone
"Family Affair"
It's a family affair, see.

28. Ian Whitcomb and the White Star Orchestra
"Frankie and Johnny"
You arrange the deck chairs, and I'll hum the old classic and keep an eye out for polar bears floating around on ice cubes, wondering whatever happened to the icebergs of their frosty arctic youth.

29. William S. Burroughs
"The Junky's Christmas"
Here's an uplifting tale of a desperate junky trying to score some smack who finally gets the fixins for a proper fix, but just as he's about to shoot up, he hears a guy in the hotel room next door moaning in pain, with kidney stones. The junky takes pity and gives his drugs to the guy, shoots him up and eases his pain. Redemption follows. Moral: It's the small gestures of sacrifice and decency that are going to get us through this. Or heroin.

30. Tom Petty
"I Won't Back Down"

And nor shall I. Nor should you.

31. Iggy Pop
"The Passenger"
Sure, I could have included "Search and Destroy" and been a street-walkin' cheetah with a heart full of napalm, just like angry Iggy. But the mood invoked by "The Passenger" feels more appropriate and provides a kind of nerve-balm—Iggy's just checking out the scenery, letting it pass without judgement or comment and it speaks mightily to the power of bearing witness as a form of resistance. If you let it.

32. Blind Willie McTell
"Razor Ball"
The classic from McTell keeps coming to mind whenever I check to see if Trump has nabbed any talent for his upcoming inauguration ball. This is my kind of ball, I mean hall, down around the Razor Ball.

33. The O'Jays
The early seventies classic is a staple in the New Orleans second-line marching band scene and is the perfect track to describe the two-faced plantation liberalism that characterizes the white-dominated political and media landscape down there. Closer to home, "He smiles in your face, even as Trump says the media's a disgrace."

34. Santana
"Soul Sacrifice"
The drummer is just a flat-out monster, and everyone is tripping balls. Meanwhile, the nation has just sacrificed its soul to the forces of racist hatred, but we can always get naked and pretend we're at Woodstock or something.

35. Husker Du
"I'm Never Talking to You Again"
Correct. I didn't really care when you voted for Bush, twice, cousin. He was horrible but not an outright fascist, and people can agree to disagree. However.

36. Sonny Sharrock
"Promises Kept"
I can name a few: Osama Bin Laden, health care for millions of struggling Americans, clean-energy revolution, saved the auto industry, equal pay for women, the list is long and strong. As is this track from the late free-jazz skronkmeister Sonny Sharrock.

37. The Frogs
"Grandma's Sitting in the Corner with a Penis in her Hand Going No, No, No, No, No"
Sorry Grandma, they really did repeal Obamacare and privatize Social Security and gutted Medicare, and left you holding the bag.

38. The Fugs
"CIA Man"
Russian hackers and the FBI is whackers, but the CIA, man—they called it.

39. Captain Beefheart
"Dachau Blues"
It is critical to bust out this harsh old Captain Beefheart classic whenever an anti-Semitic jackass should come to occupy a position of  high power. Never again means never fucking again.

40. Allen Ginsberg
"Capitol Air"
Times like these is when I really miss Ginsberg's presence in the American culture, because of punchy numbers like this. I got to know Ginsberg a little after interviewing him way the heck back and one time he said that I had a "haunted quality" about me. I had to agree, and it's only gotten worse since election day. Then he tried to pick me up.

41. Slash
"Godfather Theme"
Someone's going to be terror-tweeted into sleeping with the fishes before this is all over, don't you think?

42. Eric Idle
"Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"
Tomorrow is another day, another chance to resurrect our broken Democracy and lift our heavy hearts. A weighty cross to bear indeed, and so it is important to retain a spirit of mirth.

43. NOFX
"Idiots are Taking Over"
As if any further explanation is necessary.

44. Adicts

"Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out"
The Adicts turn the Timothy Leary LSD slogan into a catchy pop-punk tune and make me remember the time I was editing the college radio newsletter and suggested that people turn off, tune out, and drop dead. I'm feeling some of that spirit scanning the Breitbart headlines this morning.

45. Big Mama Thornton
"Let's Go Get Stoned"
Let's, while there is still time.

46. The Action Swingers
"Fear of a Fucked-Up Planet"

Long live Ned Ludd, who called it in 1994.

47. Nirvana
"The Man Who Sold the World"
Okay, so I lied. Did I lie? The media lied. See #12? Who wrote that? Did I write that? I never wrote that. Disgusting media.

48. Bob Dylan
"Not Dark Yet"
Goddamn this whole lying thing is becoming a big problem (See #12). Are you calling me a liar? No, you're a liar. No, you're a liar. Well anyway, it's not dark yet...but it's gettin' there. Check back with me on on Jan. 21.

49. Peter, Paul and Hitler
"Trump the Magic Fascist"
It's an alt-right sing-along, folks! And just in time for a prime-time performance at the inauguration! "Oh, Trump the magic fascist/lied by the sea/and grabbed that pussy at the ballot box/all the way to the West Wing."

50. Sister Rosetta Tharpe
"That's All"
Brothers and sisters, thanks for taking a spin through this list. I leave you with another classic from Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and this one with the choice lyric:
Listen, people fighting one another
And think they're doing swell
And all they want is your money
And you can go to heeeeyyyyy

That's all.

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Lord Monckton of the House of Wingnuts

Posted By on Mon, Dec 5, 2016 at 4:21 PM


Last week an email came to the office that said Lord Christopher Monckton would be hosted at the Lomitas School House in Santa Rosa in a talk entitled “Using ‘Climate Change’ to Attack Rural America.” But by popular if not populist demand, the event was moved late last week to the city-owned Finley Community Center, which will host Monckton Dec. 7 in its senior wing.

The Monckton talk in Santa Rosa is one of four taking place in California this week sponsored by the Eagle Forum (and co-sponsored locally by North Bay Patriots).

The Eagle Forum is the hard-right organization founded by the late Phyllis Schlafly, known for its stridently anti-immigration, anti-feminist, “pro-family,” anti-globalist agenda.

The president of the California Eagle Forum is a woman named Orlean Koehle, who founded the Sonoma County Land Rights Coalition back in 2006. She lives on land outside of Santa Rosa and recently published a book that detailed plans for an upcoming one-world religion. Her website warns that “many believe [it] will be an Islam/New Age/pagan religion.”

Monckton is a British climate-change denialist and Brexit proponent, and a press release announcing his appearance says the issues are indeed related. “The control that the European Union was exercising over the British people and their property and water rights is similar to the controls we are experiencing in rural America today—using the excuse of climate change.”

A review of online resources and reports that have popped up over the years highlight that Monckton, besides the climate-change denialism, has been a proponent of the birther lie about President Barack Obama and has also, in the past, called for the quarantine of HIV-AIDS patients in internment camps. That’s a pretty grim tidbit to read about during a week of moving Worlds AIDS Day remembrances—and during a month when hard-right fearmongers have raised the specter of similar camps for American Muslims.

The press release that was sent to the Bohemian says to contact Sebastopol Eagle Forum member Carol Pascoe to reserve a space for the event. I did so while it was still booked at the school-house and asked Pascoe while I had her on the phone about Monckton’s embrace of birtherism. Pascoe says she “wasn’t sure about that one” and has seen “a lot of evidence,” including the movie on the subject by Dinesh D’Souza, who is both a conservative and a convicted felon. “It does bring up a lot of questions.”

As for the Eagle Forum’s "pro-family" views when it comes to equal rights for gays, Pascoe notes that lawmakers like Jerry Brown defied the will of the people when they ignored the California gay-marriage ban enshrined in Proposition 8, which passed in California in 2008 only to be overturned in court two years later.

Pascoe didn’t return a follow-up call about the move to the larger venue, which is owned by the city of Santa Rosa. The city administrator who oversees the rentals says there is one standard for potential renters of public space: “I rent to any group that pays,” says Loretta Van Peborgh. That would include David Duke or the Ku Klux Klan if someone wanted to host them in Santa Rosa, she says. “We would have to rent to them,” under First Amendment free-speech protections.

Long live the First Amendment, which also protects the free speech and free-assembly rights of citizens who may take issue with the assertion that Lord Monckton is, as the press release announcing his imminent arrival says, “a very well informed authority on the fraud of climate change.”

The Monckton talk takes place Dec. 7 at the Finley Community Center, Person Senior Wing Auditorium, 2060 West College Ave. Santa Rosa. There’s a potluck dinner at 6pm and the program runs from 7-9pm.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Big Rock in the Middle of the Desert

Posted By on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 8:18 PM

The rock is there to be avoided but not ignored - WIKIPEDIA
  • wikipedia
  • The rock is there to be avoided but not ignored

You know the parable of the big rock in the middle of the desert, right? The parable of the big rock in the middle of the desert is you’re driving in the desert and you see a big rock ahead. You have more than enough time to avoid the rock, there’s plenty of space to get around the rock, you can easily not hit the rock, and you keep driving along and of course you hit the rock anyway. There’s your president-elect and the election night meltdown of expectations and assumptions about the inevitable victor. Guilty as charged. I hit the rock. Ouch.

Back in 2004 I canvased for a while in New York City, collecting money for the DNC on behalf of the Democratic Party and its candidate for president that year, Secretary of State John Kerry.

I did a little story about the canvasing experience after the fact and there was a notable encounter on the Upper East Side that I reported on. This was of course Bush’s re-election campaign after a disastrous first term and I was out there on a sidewalk, people whisking by, and one woman took a look at me with my red DNC shirt and clipboard and rushed past me as she said—don’t worry, we’ll definitely get him this time.

I suggested in the story I wrote that she might not want to be so sure about that. That year she hit the rock that I saw coming. And yet this time around—I totally blew off the rock, couldn’t imagine or fathom the rock, and slowly succumbed to faith over reason and the lure of the unobstructed view. I thought about that story earlier this year in the early summer when I was sure Orange Sunshine would win—I'm calling him Orange Sunshine because I'm trying to stay positive—but then pivoted to there's no way this can happen and then to a happy semi-relief the more time I spent binge-watching

More recently I had another opportunity to see the rock before it was too late. I read that the guy who owns Yuengling Brewery, America's oldest, was a big supporter of Orange Sunshine and remembered my buddy Jim, a friend of a friend who made a great documentary about Yuengling back around 2000.

I wrote a little story about that, too. The brewery is located in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, and the filmmaker told me a story while we watched the film together, about one of the scenes where a group of brewery workers is sitting outside the brewery on a hot day, and some are wearing flannel or other long-sleeve shirts—sleeves rolled down. It's frickin' 90 degrees, what's the deal? Jim the filmmaker tells me the deal. The deal was the sleeves hid the swastika and white-power tattoos during working hours. The sleeves were finally rolled up on Nov. 8.

And right before the freaking election on Sunday afternoon I had this weird and very deep pang of worry about Clinton's prospects as the first female major ticket candidate for president—I was thinking about the failed Equal Rights Amendment of the mid-seventies and the lingering stank of outright male-dominance politics on the spectacle this year. Support for the ERA seemed a no-brainer at the time—how could anyone vote against equality for women?—but hey, I was ten years old, what did I know.

Older and presumably wiser, later in the day Sunday I headed out and glimmed an umbric horizon, Orange Sunshine rising at sunset—and a large massif emerging from the ocean.

Oh, relax, it's just the Farallon Islands, how can she possibly lose?

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Free Tex Watson? Nah. A Note on Capital Crime and Culture

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2016 at 1:06 PM

Tex Watson was denied parole for the 15th time yesterday as California soon votes to end or "mend" capital punishment
  • Tex Watson was denied parole for the 15th time yesterday as California soon votes to end or "mend" capital punishment

Charles Watson sounds a lot cooler when you put the “Tex” in the middle of it, but that’s how people remember the horribly notorious Charles Manson-ite, Charles "Tex" Watson, who was in the headline scroll of the L.A. Times this week when his parole was denied by the California Department of Corrections, for the fifteenth time.

Watson was convicted in the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders and was sentenced to death (along with Manson himself) at the end of 1971. California ended capital punishment in 1972 which meant Watson's sentence was commuted to life with the very remote chance of parole. In his case and for all intents and purposes, that is likely a zero chance of parole, given the notoriously evil bent of Watson and the Manson Family's 1969 murder spree. Thirty-five years after being incarcerated for his participation in the seven murders, Watson has become an ordained minister with his own church, and a college graduate with a business degree. He got married and had three kids. All while in prison. After this latest parole denial, Watson won't go before the board again until 2021, when he'll be 75 years old.

Seeing Watson in the headlines reminded me of how edge-culture purveyors of Generation X, myself include and deplorably so, were kind of fascinated by Manson. As a young lad just out of college in the early nineties I bought the Manson album, Lie, that had all those earnest, scratchy, weird-folkie songs on them. There was also the Manson connection to the Beach Boys' Dennis Wilson, very intriguing. And I bought the Dec. 1969, Life Magazine with Manson on the cover at some little shop in eastern Vermont, roundabout 1990—The Love and Terror Cult! I'm kind of ashamed I did nowadays, but recently I pulled “Garbage Dump” off the Youtube at the office and the officemates thought it was kind of catchy. It's Manson. He gave “The Sixties” a bad rap for the generation that followed and Watson was an arguably even bigger psycho, if actions speak louder than forehead swastikas and bizarre interviews with Geraldo Rivera.

I went to San Quentin early this year and while I did not spot Charles Manson, I can readily report that there is no fair shortage of psycho killers among the 700-plus men on the three tiers of death row. But there are also redeemable men, and there may even be men who are not guilty of the crime that put them there. This is not an unusual occurrence.

This year Californians will vote on whether to end the death penalty outright (Proposition 62) or quicken the appeals process to speed up—to kickstart—the executions (Proposition 66—or, The Number of the Beast, Minus 6). In our upcoming issue we’re endorsing a bunch of things and one of them is Proposition 62, the repeal initiative that would commute all the current capital sentences to life-without-parole. So that, for example, someone like Tex Watson doesn’t waste taxpayer time and money with 15 fruitless attempts to be a free man again, after already having been found guilty for crimes For Which There is No Parole But God.

Forget that. And forget Prop 66, which contains some downright creepy language that’s nevertheless totally unsuitable for Halloween: Proposition 66, if enacted, “Exempts prison officials from existing regulation process for developing execution method.” The condemned are hereby instructed to check all apples for razorblades.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Hopes and Fears of a Vote for Hillary

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2016 at 8:55 AM

I don't expect Clinton to be as cool as Obama, but her Veep is a big fan of the Replacements, and that's something - WIKIPEDIA
  • wikipedia
  • I don't expect Clinton to be as cool as Obama, but her Veep is a big fan of the Replacements, and that's something

As these things go, people generally have either a good faith or bad faith view of government and public life. You either think public officials are basically decent people trying their darnedest to enact good public policy on behalf of the people, or you think they're all a bunch of cynical crooks who manipulate a rigged system to selfish ends and cast votes based on the imperative of political self-survival. Foolish me, I tend to take the good-faith view of public officials, up to and including Hillary Clinton, which may not be the greatest trait for a journalist, but does help in the department of how to be a better human.

I'll be both proud and wary to cast my vote for Clinton in a couple of weeks (is it over yet)? Proud because she has earned it and because I have high hopes that she will deliver, that she will extend and improve on the best of the Obama years, bring peace and justice where such things are absent, both here and abroad. Yes, she can. Let’s hope she does.

But I’m wary because of the Iraq war vote Clinton cast in the Senate, and the bad jingoism, the Cheney-like parroting of the Saddam-Qaeda link that went along with the 2002 vote. So I’m taking a deliberate but reluctant journey around that moral road-block and voting for Clinton anyway, despite a vote that reeked of bad faith. She has owned up to the colossal error of that vote and while I remain skeptical about Clinton I'm not cynical about her. My hopes are tempered by fears that range along a line of seriousness and gravity:

1. I fear that Hillary will start WWIII or some hapless proxy version thereof, that she will accelerate chaos with overly robust responses to faraway disasters, and she will be subsequently drowned in the Sea of Man as it rises to the electoral challenge in 2020. I hope she will have learned the lesson of that indefensible Iraq War vote and earn the Nobel Peace Prize that was prematurely given to Obama, through a foreign policy that emphasizes peace through restraint—with strength on the horizon as needed, and humanitarian boots on the ground.

2. I fear that in her zeal to “jump-start the economy” that she will capitulate to the lords of capital while failing to “save the middle class” and destroy the best of Obamacare in the process of cutting bad deals with Republicans in the service of a false bipartisanship of surface civility. I hope she gets along with reasonable Republicans and that there is some sort of genuine public rapprochement among moderates, and whoever else wants to come along, that delivers results and not just fleeting moments of happy-pants posturing on TV. Along the way I hope she enacts the best of the Bernie platform along with a Clinton Fixit on Obamacare that improves it, and its standing, with The People.

3. I fear that given the ample history and current obsession with emails, that she and her administration will become embroiled in scandals of such a distracting nature that “wag the dog” will look like “swing the DINO” by the time she turns outer Raqqa into a sheet of glass, to use the Cruzian construct. So I’ll vote for Hillary but with a zero tolerance policy for Clintonian shenanigans, and especially after eight years of no-whack Barack leading the way with cool dignity. I don't expect Clinton to reach for Obama levels of coolness, but I do expect Tim Kaine to give her the Replacements' Pleased to Meet Me for Christmas, and for her to enjoy it.

And on that cheerful note, I hope the Obamas invite the Clintons for Christmas and an early move-in to the White House, to ease the transition, and so that they can have The Talk with Bill one morning, in their bathrobes over coffee and cakes and Michelle with the stern-friendliest face of all. The ankle bracelet is presented, wrapped in a blue bow. “You were a mediocre commander-in-chief who talked a big game but squandered your presidency with the drama. Don’t blow it for her, Bubba.”

Yes, he can. Let’s hope he doesn’t.

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Bunker Mentalities: Norman Lear celebrated at upcoming Stinson Beach Doc Fest

Posted By on Fri, Oct 21, 2016 at 1:13 PM

Archie was a sympathetic bigot, not an irreedemable racist
  • Archie was a sympathetic bigot, not an irreedemable racist

The Stinson Beach Doc Fest is coming up on Nov. 4-6, with proceeds to benefit the Stinson Beach Community Center. I’ve been seeing lots of big signage around West Marin about the festival, now in its third year, and which this year features docs about Yo-Yo Ma, Iranian centrifuges, Maya Angelou, ranching in Marin—and Norman Lear, the 1970s TV legend responsible for such classics as Maude, All in the Family and Good Times. It’s impossible to overstate the impact those comedies had on the culture at large, and by extension the “culture wars” that emerged in the 1970s, tackling, as they did, hot-button issues that ranged from abortion rights to racial justice to sexual assault.

Lear is 93 and maybe more relevant than ever this year. There was a moment during the third presidential debate between Clinton and Trump the other night where Hillary highlighted the fact that the horrible person who shot up that Orlando gay nightclub earlier this year, was a Queens guy. Just like Donald, she noted—perhaps nastily.

And just like All in the Family's Archie Bunker, who has practically morphed into an archetype for the particularly American strain of ignoramus posturing that is animating a lot of the Trumpian fury these days. “Archie Bunker for President” made the rounds back in the day as a bumper sticker and sew-on patches and stickers. My old man had the patch and loved Archie as much as he loved "pro"-wrestling icon Andre the Giant, speaking of battles that are rigged to exploit their maximal entertainment value.

If you don’t understand or don’t care to understand the “typical” Trump supporter—who may be kind of obnoxiously obtuse, but who isn’t an actual manifestation of pure evil—that person may be embodied in the figure of Archie Bunker. That person is not completely irredeemable, especially in the face of his own humanizing encounters with The Other–in this case, the black neighbor George Jefferson. It was funny when Archie talked conspiratorially about “The Blaaaacks” because he was presented by Lear as a sympathetic bigot instead of an irredeemable racist. It’s not funny when Trump does the same because he is an unsympathetic bigot who has presented himself as the candidate of choice for irredeemable racists. Plus he's a real person, I get that.

The press materials accompanying Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You do a better job than I can of boiling down the essence of Norman Lear’s genius: His iconic shows “cracked open dialogue and shifted the national consciousness, injecting enlightened humanism into sociopolitical debates on race, class, creed, and feminism.”

All in the Family first aired in 1971, in the midst of one of most convulsively violent periods in American political history, and remains a potent reminder of the power of comedy to bridge violently divergent viewpoints with some much-needed laffs. It harkened back to “simpler” times—didn’t need no welfare state/everybody pulled his weight—while goosing the simple-minded for buying into the nostalgia ride in the first place. Archie may have been the original, ur-deplorable, but every once in a while he scored a moral victory over the liberal excesses of freeloading Meatheadism, as embodied in the character of Mike Stivic, played by Rob Reiner. And Lear was brutally non-partisan in his portrayal of Archie’s educated Marxian son-in-law as something less than a proto-feminist icon. Meathead was no Alan Alda. Indeed, he may have been the original mansplainer.  

Which of course brings us to the annual Al Smith Dinner, held last night in New York during the last desperate weeks of one of the most convulsively violent election seasons in recent American history. Trump’s nasty turn at the dinner-roast last night served only to underscore how this has been one heck of an abjectly off-key presidential season in dire need of a spasm of hilarious release. Trump's obvious inability to have a few sincere laughs at his own expense betrayed the whole point of the dinner, which is to let comedy do its healing, leveling magic. He totally blew it. 

So if you think Trump TV might be airing re-runs of All in the Family, think again. Triumph of the Swill is a more likely ratings grab these days.

For more info on the festival, go to

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How To Survive Tonight's Debate: A Loser's Guide

Posted By on Wed, Oct 19, 2016 at 3:39 PM

The headband that shook a nation to its core
  • The headband that shook a nation to its core

The Politico ticker says the deal goes down in less than three hours from now and so I thought it might be helpful to prepare a checklist for how to survive tonight’s presidential debate in Las Vegas.

1. Strap on the Hillary Headband 

Millennials can be a little in the dark when it comes to some of the more nuanced outbursts of stupid that characterized reactions to Hillary before and through the first Clinton presidency, a fact highlighted in a long Paula Jones piece on the Daily Beast this week that noted how journos were feverishly cranking out Jones “explainers” to give the kids some context on what on Earth is Trump doing now? Even as we’re reminded of Bubba’s numerous indiscretions, hardly anyone seems to remember the Hillary Headband anymore, even as it, too, was a jump-off point for the relentlessly scandalous outrage that popped up as the Clintons oozed into the national consciousness, circa ’92: “Why is that woman wearing a headband!??!?!” No, really, people were really upset about this back then, in the same way people trashed Barack Obama for wearing a tan suit that one time. Sad. Naïve. Give me a break.

So I’m going to wear a Hillary Headband tonight, cut from the cloth of basic decency, not so much in Clinton's honor, but so that my head might not come apart at the seams, so that my brain might not start oozing out my ears as this spectacle unfolds. I suggest similar measures if you are concerned for your mental health. Rub a little lavender oil on the headband too, it’ll help calm those nerves and keep you from throwing Fleetwood Mac Greatest Hits CDs at the television. And remember, tomorrow is another day. Don’t stop thinking about it!

2. Tattoo the serenity prayer on your forearm and chant it over and over in the event that Trump goes nuculur and Chris Wallace chortles about Hillary’s butt. 

The Reinhold Niebuhr prayer is quite a useful mantra in times like these, in a nation out of control with rage and bickering and death threats as the Ugly American who has come home to roost, like so many whining chicken-hawk bad losers.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.

You can always change the channel, you know.

3. Break out the raincoat.

Cruising around on the internet today, I noticed that veteran political reporter and author Joe Conason, of the National Memo, had offered a similar observation to that of veteran ape-lady Jane Goodall in a September Atlantic about the debates: Trump is acting like an angry loser of an ape, or a chimpanzee—and when simmering simians get that way, they start to fling their own poo. Watch out, America.

The poo-fling politerati has spoken, but I’ve been saying all along that once you get past the Hitlers and the Mussolinis, the Berlusconis and the Caligulas, the Milosevics and the Putins, the most apt historical comparison to Trump can be found in the figure of GG Allin, who, like Trump, lived to be hated. 

Unfamiliar with the Geeg? Until his all-too-timely death in 1993, Allin was the scariest, craziest, sickest, filthiest, most depraved rock and roll performer ever. E-ver. He’d take the stage, get naked, take a crap, fling it at the audience, puke all over himself, smash beer cans in his face until he was bloody, masturbate wildly, punch the audience—to wild applause and adulation. Sort of like a Trump rally, no? For years, Allin promised to kill himself onstage on Halloween, 1998, until going out in a somewhat less dramatic fashion via a heroin overdose. But during his heyday in New York’s Lower East Side, veteran show-goers always knew that when you went to a GG Allin show—you better bring the raincoat. An umbrella couldn’t hurt either. I’d suggest that you have the full-body condom on hand, too, for tonight’s show. It could get very, very messy up there.

4. Scream, “It’s Rigged, It’s Rigged” at the television, especially because of Ohio.  
Why am I playing into this readily debunked nonsense about voter fraud? Well, it’s because of the just-released 2017 list of nominees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Yeah, there are some great and deserving bands and artists on the list this year—Bad Brains, MC5, Zombies, The Cars, Joe Tex—but let’s face it, the RRHOF isn’t so much a hall of fame as it is an “everyone gets a trophy” tourist trap designed to cater to the sensibilities of anyone who visits, no matter how lame or non-rock those sensibilities might be. Here’s a corporate institution that seriously believes that Journey and Tupac Shakur are worthy of rock and roll infamy, which is their business, of course. Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner can rig this however he wants to accommodate his Hootie and the Blowfish mandate to defraud the American people of quality rock and roll, but it’s a scam. It’s rigged. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a total fraud, and has been since its inception. You'd be naive to think otherwise, or as Jeffrey Lord would say, the moon landing actually took place in New Jersey. Capricorn Dumb!

I’m ranting my way to the point here, don’t worry. The point is that while the Rock and Roll Hall of Lame has annually anointed hit-maker mediocrity into the ranks of The Greats, it has consistently—and I would argue, deliberately, maliciously, and unpatriotically, not to mention foolishly—ignored the protean 1950s rock-and-roll experience that was Link Wray.

The Link Wray was terrific. I mean how do you ignore the facts that are staring you in the face, Ohio? Just look at that face. Sad. Pathetic.

It’ll be a real Rumble in Vegas tonight. 

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Fishing Report...Goes Fishing. Plus: Skitzo Roolz!

Posted By on Tue, Sep 27, 2016 at 2:32 PM

Skitzo roolz - SKITZO
  • Skitzo
  • Skitzo roolz
The Bohemian and Pacific Sun are sharing a cover story this week about an awesome Bay Area guy named Kirk Lombard who just published his Sea Forager's Guide to the Northern California Coast—a great, fun read and I hope you'll check out my long feature on Kirk in Wednesday's paper. Had a lot of fun writing it. We did some fishing in Bolinas and he caught almost all the fish. Hilarious stuff. Check it out tomorrow. Today, who knows. The whole country's in the grip of a post-debate moment that is basically saying that Hillary Clinton demolished Trump last night but of course Rudy Giuliani says it's all Lester Holt's fault. I watched the debate but only after it ended, which is to say that I went to Youtube and fired it up and then hit the mute button whenever Trump opened his mouth so I didn't have to listen to his mindlessly hateful prattle. I've been listening to Blood on The Tracks lately and burst out into song during some of his more memorable moments that I had muted, singing, of course, the Dylan classic "Idiot Wind," which blows every-time he moves his teeth. It's a wonder Trump can even breath at all (especially given those sniffles)....

Meanwhile, there was a really great piece of mail in my box yesterday, a big box of goodies from Sonoma County heavy-metal veterans Skitzo, who sent a package that included: 

1. One CD of their Dementia Praecox record, released in 2015.
2. One DVD of Skitzo performances
3. One puke-green Skitzo 45 with a large vomiting person on the sleeve
4. One baseball card of Vixen's Share Pedersen, from 1991. 
5. One small plastic rat
6. One Skitzo button
7. A selection of Skitzo stickers
8. A big pile of Skitzo press materials, including a letter from an editor at People magazine from 1999 following a Skitzo appearance on Jerry Springer that included some vomiting. 
9. Some other weird and random stuff.

The Skitzo record is ferocious and diverse and features new and old songs that date way back to the 1980s—the shrieking, driving "Sick Son of a Bitch" was written about the Ted Bundy trial. I had the record cranked in the car headed home yesterday and then cranked it again for the drive to Santa Rosa today. Darn near blew the windows out listening to "Sick Son of A Bitch" over and over again. My ears perked up about halfway through the drive, about halfway through the song "World War 666," which features a mention of Donald Trump in there—though it's tough to suss out the context for a mention of such Satanic import, given the surrounding frenzy of metal and screaming that characterizes the record. Given the song title I'll go on a limb and say it's not an especially favorable mention of the candidate, no sir. Sniffle sniffle.

It's been pretty darn hot out there and when I pulled in to Jack's for a Coke and a burger last night, with Dementia Praecox blaring down Washington St., the car's thermometer said it was 101 degrees in Petaluma and I checked out the album sleeve waiting for the grub on the drive-through line—and saw that the guitarist from Blue Cheer, Tony Rainier, plays on Dementia Praecox. Blue Cheer, as in, there ain't no cure for the summertime blues Blue Cheer. Now let us cheer for blue states and 270 electoral votes, and cooling temperatures, and very loud metal 4eva.  

Skitzo is celebrating 35 years of vomit-drenched thrash metal with a big event at the Phoenix in Petaluma on Nov. 12—after the election and whatever that might bring, WWIII included but let's hope not. My colleague Charlie Swanson's on the case and we'll have more on the force of nature that is Skitzo in coming weeks, just as we'll have more on this American Schitzo moment that's stinking up the joint before our very sniffling noses.  

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Friday, September 9, 2016

A Bad Case of the Trump Mumps

Posted By on Fri, Sep 9, 2016 at 3:45 PM

We are now feeling an altogether different burn - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • shutterstock
  • We are now feeling an altogether different burn

This blog has been dormant for awhile as I’ve been taking the spa treatment. Nothing too serious but I’ve been sick in the head. Diseased and withered. A wicked bug settled in to my soul called the Trump Mumps, an evil illness for which the only known cure is a vote, lots of long hikes in nature, and cannabis-infused sessions in the sauna, chanting Enya lyrics at top volume. Doctor’s orders, but for many months I’ve been slumped with the feverish jitters in the healing waters, I’ve inhaled the merciful sulfuric fizz and sighed the great heaving, weeping sigh of Hillary Clinton acceptance and have also come to accept, as one accepts the inevitability of death, that it’s possible that some unthinkable lurch in the polls could lead to a Trump presidency.

Gulp, another sip of the tonic under cover of coastal turmeric visions in the fog of Marin County. Another desperate spin through to check the dreadful Ohio numbers. Can this really be happening? The anti-inflammatory-rhetoric pill has been prescribed and dutifully downed, yet again, and still the unrestrained coarseness of our times beckons at every gruesome plop of a policy position that emanates from Trump’s repulsive anus-face. Who among us can resist the occasional plunge into the Trump morass of vengeful orangutan politics, where hiring a wife-beating anti-Semite to run a campaign comes with no price in the Q-Pac poll, but where Clinton’s hacking cough is a disqualifying sign of weakness that must be analyzed from every sinister and bad-faith angle imaginable, but especially from the perspective of Rudy Giuliani’s badly yellowed teeth? Weird. Where anything that is complex must by its Clintonian nature be assumed to be corrupt—i.e., the Clinton Foundation—but where Trump won’t release his two-mile-high pile of tax returns and declares that nobody cares whether he releases them or not, and nobody cares enough to ask whether people care enough to care about asking him to release them because Trump just Tweeted something outrageous about Mika and Joe? Very weird.  

My head hurts and it hope this is not a sign of a Trump Mumps relapse. But I feel the insistent tickle in my throat as the polls tighten and the Clinton-haters throw their hands aloft and say “What am I supposed to do? She’s an establishment crook and he tells it like it is,” even when Trump is characteristically telling it like it is by telling it like it isn’t—as in, Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States and global warming is a hoax cooked up by the Chinese. 

Which brings us to the Sierra Club. The nation’s oldest environmental organization is trying to save the world from disastrous climate change impacts—but in its own way is equally as “establishment” as the Clintons and has similarly faced criticism over the various alliances it's gotten itself mixed up with.

Earlier this week I spoke with Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, in advance of his arrival in Santa Rosa on the 16th for a talk on climate change. He’ll be at the Glaser Center, 547 Mendocino Avenue, at 7 pm, and there’s a suggested $10 donation but that’s only a suggestion—as is Sierra's suggestion, by way of their endorsement of her, that you vote for Hillary. Jill Stein: not viable.    

We’ll post the interview with Brune in the Bohemian next week. But briefly and for now, Brune has done a lot of heavy lifting to restore a sense of integrity and accountability to Sierra after it was revealed—around 2010 and before his time there—that the organization had accepted money from a corporate titan who’d been engaged in the ungodly practice of fracking. Old-guard Sierra Club members were, to say the least, not happy at the flim-frackery and Sierra subsequently turned back some $26 million in pledged moolah from the oil-and-gas sector. Nowadays it is more likely to break corporate bread with the likes of Google and Facebook, and I'll have more on that in the upcoming story.  

I got up to speed on the frack-money controversy and other issues before I spoke with Brune—spent a couple of  hours scouring around online and reading up on the recent history of Sierra. The organization has its detractors and they basically fall into two main categories, which swing to far ends of the political spectrum. On the one hand, call it the left one, the critique runs thusly: You Betrayed John Muir While I Sat In A Redwood Tree Getting Arrested, So Screw You. On the other side of the spectrum lie the false-flag pouncers of a climate-denial bent: You Are Jaguar-Driving Climate Hoax Eco-Hypocrites Who Should Be Shot Because Oil is God.

Well, you can’t make everyone happy. And as the debate rages over whether the Sierra Club is a safe-haven for eco-terrorists or a bastion of eco-fraud corporate sellouts, on shrill websites that almost nobody cares about or takes seriously except for Sean Hannity and Larry the Chemtrail Guy—Sierra Club is moving forward with its climate-change agenda and Brune is coming here to talk it.

Brune’s visit comes as Barack Obama told the New York Times this week that the climate-change trend-lines are “terrifying.” Given the tenor of our lying and venomous times, I wouldn't be surprised if Trump accuses Muslim weathermen of cheering for Hurricane Sandy from Jersey rooftops in October 2012. In fact I think I just read that on Superstormfront, or maybe Trump tweeted something to that effect, I don't know—the Trump Mumps fever is back and I may be hallucinating this whole awful spectacle.  

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Jailhouse Blues, All the Way From Sonoma County to Orleans Parish

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2016 at 2:03 PM

The Old Parish Prison in New Orleans: A Hellhole - TOM GOGOLA
  • Tom Gogola
  • The Old Parish Prison in New Orleans: A Hellhole

Sonoma County might consider a few things about criminal justice reform in how the phenomenon continues to play out in the city of New Orleans.

This week The Bohemian was one of a few news organizations from around the state to report on an investigation from a statewide disability group that laid bare Sonoma County’s problems in properly administering justice, not to mention medications, to the inmates it is charged with overseeing—and especially those with mental health issues.

This week is also noteworthy in local-level jail news as an ongoing New Orleans criminal justice reform saga finds the Orleans Parish sheriff, Marlin Gusman, fighting for his political life against an attempted full-on federal takeover of the jail complex he was elected to run.

New Orleans’ notorious local lockup, the Orleans Parish Prison, was flooded and largely destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. A new jail was built with FEMA dollars under intense local political pressure to keep historically sky-high bed-counts under control.

The post-Katrina efforts were overseen by Gusman, a former city councilman and chief administrative officer who had no experience running a jail when he was first elected in 2004. Conditions were so bad at the jail that it was put under a federal consent decree a few years ago, and Gusman was ordered to clean up the jail’s rampantly violent and unconstitutional act.

The Department of Justice now says that Gusman has failed and his time’s up—and Gusman says he’s done the best he can do under the circumstances, which is somewhat the same posture Sonoma County officials struck when the Disability Rights California report was issued last week: We’re doing the best we can under the circumstances. Everyone is dealing with an influx of mentally ill prisoners and other problems from realignment.

The problem for Sonoma County is that the DRC says everyone isn’t illegally injecting prisoners with drugs. Everyone isn't housing them in isolation-within-isolation “quiet rooms.” In fact, none of the other six jails it recently investigated are doing either of those two things.  

In both New Orleans and Sonoma County, it is fair and necessary to say that the responsible parties for failings at the respective jails are by and large decent people trying to do the right thing under enormously challenging conditions—of the budgetary and social-welfare variety.

Yet both places have offered up a public face of high concern even as they simultaneously treated a growing mental-health crisis in their midst almost as an afterthought.  

Sonoma County is almost five years away from the proposed opening of a new mental-illness focused jail building, the Behavioral Health Unit, which is scheduled to come on line at the end of 2020. 

The project is moving forward after the county did not secure available state money in two previous rounds of funding that have sent over $2 billion to other counties and cities. How did the county seal the deal this year for $40 million in state dollars (it will contribute $8 million to the $48 million BHU)?

The state made available $900 million in jail-building funds in 2012 as California’s prison bureaucrats recognized a growing county-level crisis wrought by Gov. Brown’s “realignment” scheme to de-populate state prisons by sending low-level offenders to the counties. State officials told The Bohemian recently that last year was the first time the Sonoma County proposal included a specific plan for the Behavioral Health Unit. 

Impacts of realignment in Sonoma County have played out not so much in exploding prisoner populations, but as a shift to a population with more mentally ill prisoners, as a county-paid audit from Carter Goble Lee (CGL) observed in its 2015 update to the county criminal justice master plan, which cost the county about $350,000. For that kind of money, you'd expect good advice, and Carter Goble suggested they build the BHU. The basic driver behind the changing-prisoner trend identified by Carter Goble is that while crime rates continue to go down, the mentally-ill prisoner population is expanding.

New Orleans has its own acute-care problems that often wind up in the Orleans Parish jail; the city has the extensive PTSD problems and the ragingly addicted pockets of down-at-it population; and it has all of the negative health consequences of poverty and historical racism and odious plantation politics one can imagine or experience.

Yet in New Orleans, mental health was also an afterthought when the city moved to build a new “state of the art” jail a few years ago.

In the political battle that raged locally to keep the overall bed count to below 1,500, New Orleans civic leaders left for another day—years, as it turned out—a critical part of the proposed new jail complex that would house prisoners with medical and mental health issues. It has since been built after a big fight over who should pay for it.

Privatization Pressures

There’s a tidbit I’ve been mulling over that speaks to one of the various ways that privatization in the American prison system has played out. The California Forensic Medical Group, which administers medical, but not mental health services in the Sonoma system, is a private company with contracts at jails all over California. It represents a “back-end” privatization model, providing contracted services to a public facility, for a profit. The company has been highlighted in numerous recent news investigations and lawsuits that speak of putting profits before patients.

The striking and topical tidbit is that the private equity firm that owns CFMG, H.I.G. Capital, has also been a campaign contributor to U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton.

Like Gusman and the Sonoma County jail, the youthful Republican has been in the news of late. Cotton recently commented that America doesn’t have an over-incarceration problem, no sir, it has an under-incarceration problem. Cotton flat-out wants to put more people into jail and you have to wonder what that would mean for CFMG’s bottom line.

(Meanwhile, the Democratic front-runner for president has shamelessly taken hundreds of thousands of dollars contributions from the private-prison industry and appears ready to imprison the nearest chair-hurling Bernie Bro, any minute now.)

In seriousness, Sonoma County officials obviously do not need nor want more people in its jail than need to be there. One can be skeptical about systems without holding cynical attitudes about individuals who are in charge of them.

That is a far less than obvious reality in Louisiana and New Orleans, where a “per diem” funding system has historically provided local sheriffs and for-profit prisons with a financial incentive to lock as many people up as they could, for as long as they could. Nowadays they are more likely to just cut costs to get the most bang for the per-diem buck. This is exactly what critics of CFMG’s prison medical services have observed in lawsuits and newspaper investigations.

Tourist Dollars Above All Else

It was really stunning to read about a recent and unanimous vote by the Sonoma County Supervisors that was taken just as I was working on last week’s cover story in The Bohemian, which emphasized the 2014 death of an addict who had been jailed on drug and other charges, and asked questions about the circumstances surrounding here death. Rhonda Everson died in custody and the county says she was in a special cell for inmates undergoing withdrawal. There's a lawsuit. 

Meanwhile, there’s a businessman near Bodega who wanted to convert his hotel-spa into a treatment center for addicts, given the monstrous opiate-addiction problem this country is now facing, a problem which often winds up in a jail cell.

Just as the DRC was issuing its report and Sonoma's elected leadership was telling reporters that the real problem was realignment and the flood of mentally-ill prisoners, the supervisors were also telling the Press Democrat that they wanted the privately-owned hotel-spa to be utilized as a tourist destination, and definitely not as a place for addicts to recover. That would presumably include the likes of Rhonda Everson, an addict who died in the Sonoma jail in 2014.

The 5-0 vote really did stand out for its open embrace of tourist dollars. And it reminded me that in the tourist town of New Orleans, it is not unusual to read stories during Mardi Gras about drunk tourists running around in their socks and underwear, clutching bottles of locally-made intoxicants as they let fly with the Dionysian urges and imperatives on Bourbon Street.

Back in the not-so-old days, those sorts of tourists were arrested and sent to the Orleans jail for a multi-day per-diem revenue grab for the parish. As an added bonus, there might also be some terror, violence and desperate isolation during the unfortunate tourist’s stay at OPP.

Under the intense post-Katrina glare of the feds and the media, Orleans Parish has generally eased off on arresting tourists for stupid non-crime crimes—and is now more focused on making sure they don’t get shot during Mardi Gras. Since that’s pretty bad for tourism, too.

Closer to home, the DRC report urged Sonoma County to address its jailhouse mental health crisis now, even in the absence of the new BHU that won’t come on line for years. Don't wait for the unhinged citizen to do something stupid in their underwear. Creative solutions are needed, good people need to step up and do the right thing—and a rehab center would seem to be a pretty good approach to keep addicts out of jail for the crime of being addicts who commit crimes because they are addicts.

So it was really disappointing to read that outgoing Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo joined his fellow supervisors in the 5-0 vote to protect the wine-besotted tourist mecca of his 5th District from those nasty addicts. Really kind of sad, actually.  

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