UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

April 14, 2009

BOHEMIAN GROVE MOGULS MOVE FROM RUINING THE COUNTRY TO RUINING THEIR OWN FOREST

Alex Shoumatoff, Vanity Fair - Is this really what I want to be doing? Sneaking into the exclusive Bohemian Grove, on the Saturday night when roughly 2,500 of America's richest, mostly right-wing Republicans are kicking off their annual July "encampment"? The members of the San Francisco-based Bohemian Club are mostly all here, partying boisterously in this primeval stand of gargantuan redwoods 75 miles north of the city, or will be during the next 16 days. Over the years all the usual suspects have made appearances: Rumsfeld, Kissinger, two former C.I.A. directors (including Papa Bush), the masters of war and the oilgarchs, the Bechtels and the Basses, the board members of top military contractors - such as Halliburton, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and the Carlyle Group - Rockefellers, Morgans, captains of industry and C.E.O.'s across the spectrum of American capitalism. The interlocking corporate web - cemented by prep-school, college, and golf-club affiliations, blood, marriage, and mutual self-interest that makes up the American ruling class. Many of the guys, in other words, who have been running the country into the ground and ripping us off for decades.

The summer high jinks begin, as they have for more than 100 years, with a macabre, hokey ceremony - with Druidic, Masonic, Ku Klux Klan, and Aryan forest-worship overtones - called the Cremation of Care, which is starting in 40 minutes down by the lake. I squeeze through a hole in a chain-link fence onto the 2,700-acre property and follow an old overgrown railroad bed. To my left, below a dense tangle of California bay laurel, big-leaf maple, and understory shrubs, the muddy-green Russian River is sliding by. I didn't see any posting on that side of the property, but I know I am trespassing.

While many in the world see this gathering of the military-industrial high command as the bad guys - a sort of rogue state operating outside the constraints of democratic institutions, a favorite watering hole for what Peter Phillips, a Sonoma State University sociologist who has published extensively on the Bohemian Club, calls "the global dominance group" - this is not how the members imagine themselves. They see themselves as the moral underpinnings of America's greatness, whose central tenets are the Protestant work ethic: work hard and prosper and you'll get into that great club in the sky. The Bohemian Club is like the Opus Dei of the Protestant American establishment. Very few Jews have made it in, and even fewer blacks.

The encampment is more of a drunken blowout and an opportunity for bonding than a serious roundtable like Davos, although there is a series of lakeside talks that are enlightening about what the government has up its sleeve for the upcoming year. Kissinger is a perennial favorite. His speech nine years ago, "Do We Need a Foreign Policy?" was music to the ears of the Bush administration. In 1942, Edward Teller is said to have planned the Manhattan Project here. There's a lot of dark history in this forest retreat. It's rumored that during the presidency of Gerald Ford one Grove employee was a charming, impeccably mannered ex-Nazi, who used to drive around in a jeep that had the decal - a palm tree with a swastika on it - of Rommel's Africa campaign, which he had served in. Ford made him take it off. . .

I am here to investigate reports that the Bohemians have been desecrating their own bower. That nothing is sacred with these guys anymore. Everything is fair game. But how could the Bohemian Club, where California's forest-preservation movement began, be logging its own land, which includes the largest stand of old-growth redwoods in Sonoma County? That's what it did quietly from 1984 to 2005-11 million board feet, roughly 11,000 prime redwoods and Douglas firs. I imagine they don't need the money. It costs $25,000 to join the club and $5,000 a year after that. A 150-foot redwood with a 27-inch D.B.H. (diameter at breast height) fetches only $850 these days, and a similar-size Douglas fir $450. Critics say to sacrifice these jewels for such small change is unconscionable. And for the last three years they have been trying to double the harvest.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Mairead said...

It's rumored that during the presidency of Gerald Ford one Grove employee was a charming, impeccably mannered ex-Nazi, who used to drive around in a jeep that had the decal - a palm tree with a swastika on it - of Rommel's Africa campaign, which he had served in. Ford made him take it offAnd right there we have an example of form vs substance. Certainly many and probably most Germans who served in the Afrika Korps were NOT Nazis, and who were/are understandably proud of having done their best as soldiers of their country.

Will, one day, US soldiers be forbidden to display any token of THEIR military service in US-adventurist campaigns such as VN, Grenada, Iraq, and Afghanistan?

April 15, 2009 9:21 AM  
Anonymous Woody Guthrie said...

"As I was walking I saw a sign there,
and on that sign said 'No Tresspassin''.
But on the other side it didn't say nothin'.
That side was made for you and me."

April 15, 2009 1:20 PM  

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