Sour Grapes in Whine Country

Jeff Ackerman, editor/publisher of The Union, today gave us another of his signature anti-government rants (“Mining? Just fuhgeddaboudit“), this time in the form of an entertainingly peevish complaint about the likely failure of Emgold to get permission to re-open the old Idaho-Maryland Mine in the heart of downtown Grass Valley. He quotes and agrees with Mike Miller, manager of the Original Sixteen To One Mine, in blaming the “Bureau of Environmentalists,” which Miller said replaced the Bureau of Mines.

Here’s how Ackerman, again borrowing from Miller, complains about government regulations:

I remember Mike telling me that the only reason there is a United States Post Office in the town of Alleghany — population of roughly 70 — is to handle the piles of paperwork required by the state regulators.

I got curious about this silly hyperbole and called the postal clerk at the Alleghany Post Office today, with predictable results:

“Someone in our local paper this morning claimed that most of your mail is government mail,” I told her.

“That’s not true,” she said.


One of Ackerman’s readers this morning did a good job of deconstructing his implicit assumption that the Idaho-Maryland Mine re-opening deserves approval:

By no means is this project DOA just because of state mining laws. The entire proposition to even consider a large scale industrial mining and “ceramics plant” in the middle of an area populated with homes and businesses was quite insane. In a city and area that is trying to upgrade and attract modern business and tourism. A Sierras struggling to come to grips with the environmental catastrophe that was CA mining.

I’m damn thankful we have the laws we do here in CA. Its why many of us prefer to live in CA.

Its past time to move on and stop wasting time and suckers money on this thing.

So much for Ackerman’s implicit assumption that Emgold’s Idaho-Maryland project deserves approval.

What interests me most, though, is the resentful style of Ackerman’s writing, a style that has often caused his readers to refer to The Union as the “Tea Party Gazette.”

This whining and resentful style reminds me of the old Marshall McLuhan adage, “The medium is the message.”

When resentment against government is the persistent underlying message in all situations, as it clearly is for the right, then it becomes the “medium,” a sort of functional brand, which can be used in a lazy and simple-minded way, as Ackerman used it today. It’s a one-size-fits-all-intellects argument (AKA “ideology”).

The comment from his astute reader clearly shows that there is more nuance to the Idaho-Maryland issue than Ackerman is willing to understand. It’s an issue that doesn’t fit all intellects, but — damn! — requires study.

The anti-government and anti-environmental-regulation rant in this case also glosses over the true reason Emgold will fail: because it’s a junior mining company with no proven reserves at Idaho-Maryland, and no track-record of actually mining gold, and for these reasons the investors are fleeing, and the community is waking up to the fact that this project is going nowhere.

In addition to conserving intellectual effort, the government-resentment brand also serves a tribal purpose, binding large groups of sometimes justifiably-angry people into a community of whiners.

And finally, whether justified or not, whether innocent or calculated, the whining and resentful style serves the purpose of directing anger away from its proper object (corporate power) and toward a substitute object (government), and in so doing, undermines our belief that government can and should be an expression of our collective will.

The far right carries this reasoning to its ultimate extreme, and wants, as Grover Norquist said, to “shrink government down to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.” As silly as this sounds, it is the essential sensibility animating the long-term conservative project of undoing FDR’s New Deal. That project may now be enabled by Obama’s tax cut deal with the GOP, particularly the provision that reduces the payroll tax, which will accelerate the erosion of Social Security funding.

In the end, resentment of government is an expression of powerlessness, unless it evolves into righteous citizen anger and the will to act, as it has with some members of the Tea Party this year.

But if it doesn’t go beyond mere passive resentment and peevishness, it short-circuits the will to act against the true source of the problem.

Jeff Ackerman’s Op-Ed today, like most of his Op-Eds lately, is an expression of this fundamentally powerless one-size-fits-all-intellects style of peevish thought.

I do agree, though, with his confident prediction that Emgold will fail in its effort to re-open the Idaho-Maryland Mine.

It’s interesting how people on all sides of the Idaho-Maryland issue in our community are beginning to converge on this same conclusion.

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4 Responses to “Sour Grapes in Whine Country”
  1. Don Pelton says:

    Krugman’s column today shows exactly why the rigid ideological insistence that government is always the root problem is so insidious:

    Wall Street Whitewash


    “Last week, reports Shahien Nasiripour of The Huffington Post, all four Republicans on the commission voted to exclude the following terms from the report: “deregulation,” “shadow banking,” “interconnection,” and, yes, “Wall Street.”

    “When Democratic members refused to go along with this insistence that the story of Hamlet be told without the prince, the Republicans went ahead and issued their own report, which did, indeed, avoid using any of the banned terms.

    “In the world according to the G.O.P. commissioners, it’s all the fault of government do-gooders, who used various levers — especially Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored loan-guarantee agencies — to promote loans to low-income borrowers. Wall Street — I mean, the private sector — erred only to the extent that it got suckered into going along with this government-created bubble.”


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  1. […] in our community, as I’ve written before. A good example is local blogger Don Pelton’s rebuttal to the editor/publisher of The Union’s commentary about reopening the Idaho Maryland Mine, […]

  2. […] day or so after Jeff Ackerman published his recent Union op-ed bemoaning the regulatory hurdles Emgold must overcome in order to get permits to re-open the […]

  3. […] day or so after Jeff Ackerman published his recent Union op-ed bemoaning the regulatory hurdles Emgold must overcome in order to get permits to re-open the […]

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