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guardians old and new


I recently rediscovered Mark Morford, a man I used to read nearly every day when I lived in San Francisco. Morford, a columnist for the SF Chronicle, is like the dirty cousin you’ve always wanted.

You’ve got to go to committee. You’ve got to get budgets approved, votes rallied, lawyers fellated, earn support from all kinds of sniveling white male congressmen like Lamar Alexander, who, by Southern GOP law, has to openly trash the president any chance he gets (he’s black, you know), despite how Obama’s plan is a mirror of Tennessee’s own, despite how TN is a ravenous welfare state, the 5th most dependent in the country on federal funds for its whimpering survival.

Yes. That’s how I remember it. Irreverent, mordant, smiling as he drives it in. Here’s some more, from his most recent column:

The US military budget for 2015 is upwards of $640 billion. You can combine the entire military budgets of Russia, China, India, Saudi Arabia, France, UK, Germany, Japan and still not hit $640 billion. That’s how bloated, needless, ridiculous. Put another way: We could cut the US military to 1/10th of its current size and still be the largest military on Earth.

What are we defending ourselves against with all those pointless aircraft carriers, submarines, warheads, fighter jets, bizarre weapons, torture programs, drones and soldiers and the infamous “military-industrial complex” that keeps America in massive, crippling debt? No one can possibly say. Because no serious threat exists.

Do you think Obama knows this? Of course he knows this. Every president, every senator, every politician with a brain larger than a gerbil knows the US military budget is a running joke, the gravy train to end all gravy trains, the single largest waste of taxpayer money in history. But no one has the nerve to scale it back. It greases too many wheels, funds too many horrible, unnamable programs, invades too many tiny countries and overthrows too many foreign leaders who dare stand in the way of our rapacious greed.

Upshot: white politicians from welfare states complain about paying for the black president’s astonishing idea for free community college – which would cost barely 1% of the DoD’s annual budget – even as their own states suck billions from the feds to pay for all their lousy schools and successful prisons.

San Francisco is great because in San Francisco you don’t have to think twice about saying out loud that you agree with this. And you do agree with it. You agree with it because it’s true. And no amount of pragmatic politicking will ever be able to dispute it, nor timid wish that our country isn’t a disgraceful huckster of shit.

Then again… evidently not as great as it used to be. Reading Mark Morford reminded me of the other journalistic hero of my time in SF: Tim Redmond. Redmond was the editor at the SF Bay Guardian–the greatest local independent I’ve ever read–for thirty years, until he was forced out in 2013. Only a year later, this past October, the Guardian was shut down by its corporate parent company (turns out the laid-off staff are coming out with a final hurrah edition this coming week). It’s almost impossible for me to envisage SF without the Guardian. It’s horrible, actually, and it’s perfectly indicative of the great transformation of what used to be a culturally rich and beautiful and affordable city, something I’ve written about before.

Good news is, Redmond is back online with 48 Hills, a slimmer but valuable successor to the Guardian. Morford, a relative lucky duck sitting in the Chronicle offices, remains a guiding voice. Redmond and the Guardian were guiding voices too. It’s been good to make their collective reacquaintance.

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