Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Conan O'Brien highlight secretive Bohemian Grove gathering
Published: Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 12, 2013 at 7:25 a.m.
Retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal and comedian Conan O'Brien, the former “Tonight Show” host, will be among the featured speakers at the Bohemian Grove encampment of rich and powerful men under the redwoods in Monte Rio.
Up to 2,500 Bohemian Club members and their guests will attend the all-male encampment that opened Thursday and runs through July 28, all in complete secrecy behind the gates of the San Francisco-based club's 2,700-acre enclave along the Russian River.
About 15 private jets, the conveyance for some of the plutocrats and powerbrokers, were parked Thursday at Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport, and more are expected to arrive today, airport manager Jon Stout said.
McChrystal, the former commander of American forces in Afghanistan, will discuss “On Leadership” in one of the daily talks presented beside a small lake ringed by towering redwoods.
O'Brien's topic — “Success, Failure in Surviving the Media Revolution” — sounds a bit more serious than his patter on the NBC show or his current show, “Conan” on TBS.
Also in the lineup for the Lakeside Talks are Paul Otellini, who retired in May as CEO of Intel, speaking on “What My Life in Tech Taught Me”; Stanford University President John Hennessey (“The Coming Tsunami of Online Education”); and Jorge Quiroga, president of Bolivia (“South America After Chavez,” referring to Hugo Chavez, the socialist president of Venezuela who died in March).
David Gergen, political commentator and former presidential adviser; Chris Matthews, political talk show host; and William Reilly, former Environmental Protection Agency administrator, also will address the Bohemians.
The Lakeside Talks — which in the past have featured the likes of Henry Kissinger and George H.W. Bush, who in 1995 introduced his son George to the august crowd — were the object of protests launched by the Bohemian Grove Action Network in 1980.
Critics say they resent the midsummer frolics by the titans of the military-industrial complex, and fringe elements allege the Bohemians engage in satanic worship.
Club officials say its more like a group of guys “out in the woods having a good time.”
The Bohemians inhabit 119 camps among the redwoods, each with a clubhouse, campfire area, a cluster of cabins and tents for sleeping, and a bar, typically featuring a speciality drink made with the finest alcohol.
Activist Mary Moore of Occidental, who founded the protest group, had scaled back her involvement in 2001 but re-engaged last summer to stage a protest in conjunction with the Occupy movement.
Moore, 77, is now fuming over what she considers another group's infringement on her organizations's name.
“I feel really pissed off,” Moore said, referring to plans by a group called Bohemian Grove Action and Resistance for a daylong protest at the grove gates on Saturday.
Sean Ackley of Brentwood posted notices online saying, “Let us descend of (sic) Bohemian Grove and keep up the pressure so they know we have not forgot.”
Moore said she's getting calls from people who think she's involved, and she's further annoyed by Ackley's posting that says “the original BGAN group” will show up at the grove on July 20.
Not so, Moore said, noting that Ackley, a computer systems professional, helped set up the Bohemian Grove Action Network's Facebook page, which went up May 25.
“I feel like we got snookered,” she said.
Ackley, a Republican with conservative tea party sentiments, expressed surprise over Moore's pique.
Bohemian Grove Action and Resistance is the name of his Facebook page, and Ackley said he felt he was cooperating with Moore's group.
Told that Moore has no plans for a July 20 action, Ackley said, “Yeah, OK. That's true.”
Ackley said his group will hand out fliers and use bullhorns to talk to people arriving at the grove on Saturday. The protesters have no plans to engage in civil disobedience or get arrested, he said.
Sam Singer, spokesman for the Bohemian Club, said the club “supports people's right to protest and they hope the protesters respect the rights of the members of the club to peacefully assemble at the grove.”
The club remains “exceptionally popular and relevant” and has a 20-year waiting list for prospective new members, Singer said.
You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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