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Mendocino County Today: Thursday, March 31, 2022

High Pressure | 2 New Cases | Ukraine Update | Old Greenwood | Art Showing | Body Found | Contracts Ratified | Ariolimax | Housing Needed | Unity Club | Flowers | Navarro Estuary | Italia Hotel | Art Competition | Museum Exhibit | Ed Notes | Sunflowers | Mo Shooter | Chanting Constantly | Stagecoach | Naming Things | Old Bros | Gang Punks | Yesterday's Catch | War Tourism | Byrnes House | Russian Pullback | Banned Books | Molecule Madness | Daubenecks | Long Decline | Quadroons | Loss Admission | The Writer | Oil Prices | Fi$Cal Pit | Hagenmeyer Tower | Regime Change | Somalia Flag | FEC Settlement

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AREAS OF CLOUDS this morning will give way to mostly sunny and brisk conditions this afternoon, as Pacific high pressure continues to build in. Some inland valleys will be frosty the next couple of mornings, followed by more breezy and sunny afternoon. Inland high temperatures will warm through Saturday. The next shot at rain is expected late Sunday and Monday. (NWS)

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2 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon.

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RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR: what we know on Day 36 of the Russian invasion

by Johana Bhuiyan

Russia and Ukraine will resume peace talks on Friday as west claims Putin has been misled by advisers about failures of his military

Russia and Ukraine will resume online peace talks on Friday 1 April. A senior Ukraine official said leaders of the two countries, Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskiy, could meet “soon”, but the Kremlin downplayed hopes of an early breakthrough. Ukraine’s president said in a televised address to the nation on Wednesday that “for the moment there are just words, nothing concrete”.

Zelensky said he talked to Joe Biden for an hour on another “very active diplomatic day”, thanking the US president for a new $1bn humanitarian aid package and an additional $500m in direct budget support. Zelensky said: “The support of the United States is vital for us. And now it is especially important to lend a hand to Ukraine, to show all the power of the democratic world.”

Russian shelling continued on Wednesday despite Moscow saying on Tuesday that it would scale back its attacks around Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv. However, reports citing the Pentagon said that Russian forces were “walking away” from the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

UK, US and EU officials say Putin has been misled over Russian military performance. Putin has received misinformation about how well Russia is doing and how much the sanctions have affected the country because some of those closest to him are afraid to tell him the truth, according to a speech planned by the head of Britain’s GCHQ spy service on Thursday.

Sir Jeremy Fleming is also expected to say that some Russian soldiers are refusing to carry out orders, and that they are poorly equipped and have low morale.

Global restrictions on exports of industrial components to Russia have hit car and tank production. A carmaker has shut down and tank production has halted, according to the US.

Liz Truss, Britain’s foreign secretary, is due to land in India on Thursday to urge Narendra Modi’s government to reduce its strategic dependency on Russia. Her arrival in New Delhi coincides with that of her sparring partner Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, who will be making his first visit since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The UK has announced new laws targeting the access of Russian oligarchs to “UK aviation and maritime technical services”, according to the Foreign Office.

Eight Russian oligarchs on the UK sanctions list over their links to Vladimir Putin were granted “golden visas” to live in Britain. The individuals were granted the right to live in the UK after promising to invest at least £2m under the controversial tier 1 investor visa scheme, the UK government has admitted.

Russian hackers have recently attempted to penetrate the networks of NATO and the militaries of some eastern European countries, according to a report by Google’s threat analysis group. The report did not say which militaries had been targeted in what Google described as “credential phishing campaigns” launched by a Russian-based group called Coldriver, or Callisto.

Slovakia has said it will expel 35 Russian diplomats based on information provided by intelligence services. Fellow EU countries Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland and the Czech Republic have all announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats suspected of spying.


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Greenwood Mill and Town, 1900

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Local Philo residents Susan Spencer and husband Michael Wilson will be displaying their artwork starting April 2 at Mosswood Cafe and Bakery through April.

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JUST IN: The body of an 18-year-old abducted from a Walmart parking lot 18 days ago was discovered in a remote area of Nevada on Tuesday. Investigators found Naomi Irion's remains in a gravesite after a tip sent them to the area. Authorities claim DNA evidence collected on scene was used to confirm the remains were that of the young woman. Ex-convict Troy Driver, 41, formerly of Willits, is accused of kidnapping Irion from the Walmart parking lot in Fernley during the early morning hours of March 12.

THE VIOLENT MENDOCINO COUNTY BEGINNINGS of Troy Driver, the Lead Suspect in the Kidnapping and Disappearance of Nevada’s Naomi Irion

by Matt LaFever

Eighteen days ago, in the pre-dawn dark of Western Nevada, 18-year-old Naomi Irion was waiting in the Fernley Walmart parking lot for the employee bus that took her to her job at the Panasonic facility. As she sat in her car passing the time, records indicate she was on social media and checked in on Snapchat.

At 5:25 a.m. surveillance footage captured a masked man approaching Irion’s car. He wore a hooded sweatshirt and approached her car from behind. It is unknown what was said, but Irion moved from the driver’s seat and the hooded man got into the car with her and drove away. Irion has not been seen since.…

Troy Driver, Naomi Irion

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Dear AVUSD Staff,

Thank you to both CSEA and AVTA for the ratification of the contracts this year prior to the end of our fiscal year. This will ensure that raises are received immediately in the new fiscal year and allows us to create a budget path with real time information.

I want to thank your negotiation teams:


  • Stefani Ewing
  • Arthur Folz
  • Charlotte Triplett
  • Deb Pichler


  • Belma Rhoades
  • Christine Giannelli
  • Mimi Boudoures
  • Amy Burger
  • Nicole Frazer


  • Dick Browning
  • Erika Gatlin
  • Leigh Kreinhop

This year...It was good.  

What does this mean to me and what does our practice look like in this district? 

We don't always agree, but we can always sit down and do a “needs based” negotiation on what matters and WHY it matters and try to listen to each other collaboratively and figure out a way to make it work.  

I appreciate it.  The Board appreciates it, and I look forward to a great year ahead.  

Moving forward...  My cell is below.  Call me.  Anything you want to talk about.  Call me.  I can't fix what I don't know.  I know we all care about kids.  Let's start from there.

Louise Simson, Superintendent, Anderson Valley Unified School District, Cell:  707-684-1017

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Banana Slug Ariolimax (photo mk)

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Life is moving so fast and the weather is changing faster; it must be Spring. The Unity Club is holding its April meeting on Thursday, the 7th in the Home Arts Bldg. Fairgrounds, at 1:30. 

The guest speaker will be our own Home Town newspaper editor Bruce Anderson. He will regale us with the ministrations necessary to keep a Small Town Newspaper alive. Thanks to Mark and Bruce, the Anderson Valley Advertiser is alive and well. Friends who have left the Valley still read the Advertiser, just to keep up with what we're up to. This meeting is indoors, so please wear a face covering. Bring your own water and a sweater, in case it turns cool. 

Will we bravely go forward with the Wildflower Show? I'm looking forward to seeing all the Wildflowers in bloom. Some ladies are taking part in plant identification classes, in preparation. The excitement is building. Look for more news about the Wildflower Show in June Hall on April 23rd and 24th from 10 to 4. Hopefully, the Library will have special hours that Saturday. Speaking of the Library, did you get your $5 bag of books? March 29th is the last day for the March $5 a bag book sale. 

The AV High School is a buzz with Seniors talking about where they've been accepted, and what scholarships they have applied for. One of my pre-Calculus students has been accepted to my Alma Mater, Cal Poly SLO, with generous scholarships. I couldn't have completed college without multiple scholarships and grants. So, ladies, think about what manner and number of scholarships we want to award this year. We'll be talking about them at the April 7th meeting in the Home Arts Building (Library) at 1:30. Enjoy the weather, especially the rain. 

Miriam L. Martinez

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“ABOVE ALL, I must have flowers, always and always.” —Claude Monet 

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The season total rainfall for Little River is 30.11". I've been the rain reporter for the Beacon/Advocate for more than 30 years.

The gauge location is 3 miles inland from Hwy 1 at an elevation of 622 feet. It's a high accuracy professional Stratus tube gauge that measures to the nearest .01" up to a maximum of 10.00", and I read and empty it every day. The location, elevation and surrounding topography of a place have a significant impact on rainfall, so different locations will report different rain readings. That's why the newspaper reports rainfall from several different places.

The season total is computed by a staffer at the newspaper, currently located in Lakeport due to the corporate masters sucking every possible penny of profit out of the local papers, closing their offices and firing their staff. I quit reading the Beacon/Advocate years ago because I get better and quicker news from other sources.

In other weather related news, I checked the Navarro River mouth sandbar and water level late yesterday and found the bar still closed, the beach road still closed by flooding, and the water level still very slowly increasing. The water level was about 1 ft. below the edge of the pavement at the 0.18 mile traditional boat launch on Hwy 128. The water has begun encroaching onto the unpaved shoulder about 100 feet east of that spot.

A CalTrans worker told me that the agency put a 6-inch pavement overlay over the highway surface through the short section of Hwy 128 that has historically been most subject to shallow flooding caused by the sandbar. That strategy has worked so far in preventing road closure due to flooding.

No significant rainfall is forecast for the next few weeks. The estuary level increases as long as the river flow into the top of the estuary exceeds the rate at which water flows out through the sand, and that is still the case right now. The sandbar usually breaches and forms a new channel when the rate of water flowing through the porous sandbar increases enough to carry away sand below the surface, causing the sandbar to slump. Efforts by well-intentioned but misinformed people to shovel open a channel across the top of the sandbar usually fail when water entering the channel disappears into the porous sand rather than reaching the ocean side.

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Italia Hotel, Greenwood, early 1900s

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MENDOCINO COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION: Calling all high school student artists in the Second Congressional District! The 2022 Congressional Art Competition is open for submissions now until April 28. All participants receive a certificate of recognition. Winning artwork will be exhibited in the U.S. Capitol and the student will receive two tickets to Washington, D.C. 

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DID YOU KNOW two of the pieces displayed in this image taken at the de Young Museum’s exhibition “Jules Tavernier and the Elem Pomo” are from the collections of the Grace Hudson Museum? 

Over 150 years ago a Pomo woman used willow, sedge, and redbud to weave the diagonally twined bowl to the right. She gifted it to Donnah Mewhinney who was an early white settler in Potter Valley known for her generosity towards her Pomo neighbors. Mewhinney later passed the basket on to a family member who continued to pass it down through the family as a cherished heirloom and it was ultimately passed to Grace Hudson. (Information adapted from the exhibit label written by Sherrie Smith-Ferri.)

To the left of the basket is a tule sling. Beverly R. Ortiz made this piece of dogbane and tule recently. Pomo peoples use this tool to sling clay balls at unsuspecting waterfowl.

We are pleased that these and several other pieces from our collection are on display as part of the exhibit and hope you can visit before it closes on April 17th!

Grace Hudson Museum Presser

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RE MATT LEFEVER'S FINE STORY on a locally produced criminal named Troy Driver, an on-line comment: 

“Drugs, weapons, murder and now a missing 18 girl. I hope beyond all things that she is found safe somewhere. This could be a wake-up call for anyone young doing drugs thinking they are just living the life. Shit goes wrong when your brain doesn’t work right on drugs. You make horrible decisions. Decisions that cost people their lives. Decisions you can never recover from. There is probably someone reading this comment that knows about our missing women here in Humboldt. Maybe you were on drugs, maybe you still are but you can make better decisions by telling the authorities and getting the dangerous people off the streets. Helping to locate our missing women and giving some much needed closure to their families and friends. This article brings to light what a complete waste of these young lives that happened at the expense of being high. Please don’t do drugs! Please be a better person. Please do the right thing. The right thing for all of humanity not just yourself.”

A READER wrote to say the AVA has gone “transphobic.” I do tend to think there are two sexes, so shoot me. But I fully understand some men would prefer to be women, some women men, which hardly amounts to a phobia but simply a statement of fact. I think people who say they “identify” as this or that sub-gender are silly. I mean, I identify as a starting pitcher for the Giants but I doubt I'll be taking the mound for them this season. Seriously, you irony-challenged prigs, I don't wish anyone harm and would speak up if I thought that non-binary people were being hurt or threatened. As for joking about sex, yes. All for it. (cf Dave Chappelle)

I UNDERSTAND that sex-obsessed right-wingers are making a lotta noise under the headline, “Don't Say Gay,” but obviously little kids aren't being “gay propagandized” in the schools anygoddamwhere nor is “critical race theory” being taught anygoddamwhere. 

A WOMAN named Vicki Williams called to say she wasn't supervisor Ted Williams. I said I agreed. She went on to identify herself as John Redding's campaign manager before veering off into a riff I was unable to follow about red stamps on American birth certificates. Ms. Williams also said I had vilified her years ago as a DUI. As a person who could have been arrested many times for DUI's I'm in no position to vilify anyone popped for it. (I quit years ago after getting drunk in Cloverdale after a softball game because I had no memory of the drive home to Boonville. Let the record show that the Anderson Valley Advertiser is opposed to drunk driving. Planning departments should allow bars in every neighborhood so drunks could walk home like in Fort Bragg where there's a bar every few blocks.)

AFTER A SOLID YEAR of ignoring Hunter Biden's laptop, all the lib media from the NYT to Wolf Blitzer in his Situation Room are wondering out loud if Hunter was making a lot of money from the pre-Zelensky Ukrainian government and China for selling access to his father. Of course he was. But if Hunter's surname was Trump the lib media would have been all over the story the instant they became aware of it. (Women of understanding will know that most men secretly envy Hunter's strenuous private life.)

CONGRESSMAN HUFFMAN takes us through the looking glass about his self-alleged accomplishments as our tribune to corporate headquarters in Washington. “The filing window for my seat in Congress just closed and I wanted you to be the first to know that I’m running for reelection. It’s going to be a spirited race with five challengers, so I will be asking for your continued support. But first I want to tell you why I’m running.

“Since reclaiming the majority in Congress, my Democratic colleagues and I have proudly worked to defend our rights, freedoms and democracy through the worst days of the Trump administration. And under President Biden’s leadership, we’ve stood together to pass critical reforms like the American Rescue Plan, which funded the most successful vaccine rollout in history, got urgent economic relief to families and businesses and lifted our economy out of recession.” 


REALITY CHECK. Roughly half of Americans are one check away from the streets and the other half knows that the Democrats are taking us over the cliff only a half-step slower than the Republicans have. Huffman has literal bags full of cash while his challengers are the usual unfunded, ignored, token tilters at political windmills. (A few old timers will remember when the Northcoast was blessed with a genuine progressive in Huffman's seat, the late great Clem Miller. Been downhill ever since.) 

TED WILLIAMS writes on his facebook page: “Democracy is alive in Mendocino County, including a race for Supervisor in District 5. You have options. I will be highlighting policy differences between myself and John Redding. I ask you to keep your comments polite and kind. There is room in America for opposing perspectives.”


“KIND”? The 5th District supervisor called outgoing supervisor McCowen a thief for taking county property with him as he departed. The charge was delivered in open session, and was not true, but CEO Angelo had said McCowen was guilty and Williams, the faithful gofer, repeated the false claim, and isn’t likely to ever apologize. 

WILLIAMS, judging from his sub-par performance as supervisor, is not democratically disposed given his unquestioning devotion to management, simply signing off on whatever the disastrous CEO put in front of him. Ditto for his four colleagues. 

IN HER FAREWELL WHINGE, CEO Angelo, quoting supervisor Williams, said “unfounded personal attacks” made it hard to recruit people to county government. The ref would have to be to the ava because we're the only media who pay close attention to county government, and “unfounded personal attacks” — without citing any, of course — translates as criticism of the CEO and Williams and his board colleagues. 

THE NUT of the prob here is an old one in Mendocino County. People get elected to well-paid public positions they aren’t emotionally or intellectually equipped to do. County taxpayers will be picking up the tab for years after CEO Angelo and this sad sack board of unsupervising supervisors.

MICHAEL TURNER: “Scaramella laughing at someone for crying in public. What a juvenile!”

MARK SCARAMELLA REPLIES: “Not laughing. Pointing out the lamentable level of blind devotion to the boss, and the fragility of the personality of the person who has been promoted to run a $300 million-plus government organization.”

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SUPERVISOR MULHEREN: “I had Interview with Grand Jury about a variety of topics. I love those folks. I’m a real straight shooter so I appreciate their questions.” … “Saturday was a great community event for the Kick-Off of the Blue Zones Project in Mendocino County. We had a great turn out of local health related non-profits and I got to do a fun demo of Country Fusion Line Dancing.”

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CRAIG LOUIS STEHR: Sitting on a bed at Building Bridges homeless shelter in Ukiah, California, digesting a banana and mango yogurt, 8:16 at night, quiet inside and outside.  Chanting the Hare Krishna maha mantram constantly 24/7 365.  There is nothing whatsoever beyond this that needs to be done.  Having renounced the postmodern journey to nowhere weeks ago, am feeling much better for having done that.  if anybody wants to do anything worthwhile on the planet earth, let me know.  Thanks!

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Stagecoach from Mendocino to Greenwood

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Comment: As you've already heard from several other folks tonight, this is a company with a creative name. Mendocino Farms is a corporate grocery chain operator in the…

Marco McClean:

I looked up the origin of the place name Mendocino and got this:

“...It is likely that the Cape Mendocino was named for Lorenzo Suárez de Mendoza, viceroy of New Spain from 1580 to 1583. It is the adjective form of the personal name. A Mendocino is a person from the city of Mendoza. Some anonymous European cartographer arbitrarily placed the name on the map." 

So if yez all still want to change the name of Fort Bragg because Braxton Bragg was a racist slave owner of European ancestry, to be consistent you'll have to change the name of Mendocino because of slave-torturing, colonizing conquistadors, or rather their lord and master the Viceroy Mendoza. Fort Bragg could become Lindy Petersville or The Palms, and Mendocino could become... tch, I'm coming up empty here. It's open to the floor: suggest what to change Mendocino to; I'm interested. 

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Suzi wrote (Coast Chatline): There’s only one Magnolia thunderpussy: Magnolia farms could change their name to Mendocino Thunderpussy.

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Marco McClean: Also the white hippie people calling themselves magical Hindu and Central and South American and various African-sounding names are as guilty of cultural appropriation as a white high school girl wearing a pretty kimono to the prom. I don't think that's a problem; cultural appropriation is a non-issue, but of course I'd think that; I'm a member of the proverbial oppressing color, language, accent, age and sex.

Still, it's something to add to the argument against correcting historical wrongdoing by changing the name of Fort Bragg, say. It's hypocritical. Like throwing stones when one is not without sin, which, who is that? Nobody.

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On Monday, March 11, 2022, The Fort Bragg Police Department received information of a gang related graffiti which had just occurred in the 400 Block of S. Whipple Street in Fort Bragg. Officer Frank initiated an investigation and through various investigative methods identified two suspects, Pedro Guzman-Martinez, 21, of Fort Bragg, and Angel Echeverria, 19, of Fort Bragg (photo not available). 

Pedro Guzman-Martinez

During their investigation, officers were also able to determine both subjects were documented gang members. Guzman-Martinez being a documented gang member out of Mendocino County, and Echeverria being a documented gang member out of Sonoma County. 

On Tuesday, March 29, 2022, Officers of the Fort Bragg Police Department, Mendocino County Probation Office, and California Highway Patrol served search warrants at three locations in relation to their investigation. During these searches, officers located spray paint, several items of gang related indicia, as well as a stolen firearm from Ukiah. 

Subsequent to these searches, Guzman-Martinez was arrested for conspiracy to commit a crime, and felony vandalism. Echeverria was arrested for carrying loaded firearm in public while a restricted person, carrying a loaded stolen handgun, possession of stolen property, conspiracy to commit a crime, and felony vandalism. Both subjects were transported to the Mendocino County Jail. Bail for Guzman-Martinez was set at $30,000 and bail for Echeverria was set at $50,000.

The Fort Bragg Police Department wants to remind the public to report any suspicious activity they may observe utilizing the available non-emergency number (707)964-0200. As always in cases of and emergency, please utilize 911. The department would also like to thank the public and its allied agencies for their assistance during this investigation. 

If you have further information regarding this incident, or other gang related activity please contact Sergeant Joseph Shaw at 707-961-2800 ext. 181 or 

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CATCH OF THE DAY, March 30, 2022

Adams, Alvarez, Anguiano

KELIE ADAMS-PENROD, Fort Bragg. Domestic battery.

JACK ALVAREZ, Ukiah. Failure to appear. (Frequent flyer.)

MARCELINO ANGUIANO, Ukiah. Failure to appear, offenses while on bail, probation revocation.

Dishman, Garcia, Grzymski

LEWIS DISHMAN, Ukiah. Suspended license, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)

ERIC GARCIA, Redwood Valley. Failure to appear, probation revocation.

THOMAS GRZYMSKI, Eureka/Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs, controlled substance, paraphernalia, probation revocation.

Guzman, Juarez, Nelson

PEDRO GUZMAN-MARTINEZ, Fort Bragg. Vandalism, conspiracy.

ALBERT JUAREZ JR., Ukiah. Domestic battery.

RAEANN NELSON, Potter Valley. Domestic battery.

Okerstrom, Park, Torres

RYAN OKERSTROM, Willits. Burglary.

JUSTIN PARK, Ukiah. Manufacture-sale or possession of metal knuckles.

CHRISTINA TORRES, Hopland. Probation revocation.

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by Ada Wordsworth

For the last three weeks I have been volunteering at the Polish-Ukrainian border as a Russian interpreter. Every day I spend up to fourteen hours meeting refugees off trains, directing them to their next destination, and advising those who have come without plans on what to do next. This often involves taking them to the station café and settling them down with a coffee or a hot meal to discuss their next steps. There aren’t many volunteers here who speak Ukrainian or Russian. There are even fewer who speak either Russian or Ukrainian and Polish. In order for refugees to communicate with the police or local government officials, we often have to form a translation train: the refugee tells me what they need, I translate to an English-speaking Pole, and they pass it on to the relevant authority.

As well as the millions of refugees arriving from Ukraine, and thousands of Polish and international volunteers, there are Americans and Western Europeans who have turned up in their vanloads, erecting colorful tents, playing music, and handing out sweets and teddy bears to children who have not cleaned their teeth for days and are unable to carry any more toys than the treasured items they have brought from home.

I’m often reminded of the passage in The Unbearable Lightness of Being in which Milan Kundera’s narrator describes an American senator’s feelings on seeing children from Czechoslovakia playing:

There was more than joy at seeing children run and grass grow; there was a deep understanding of the plight of a refugee from a Communist country where, the senator was convinced, no grass grew, or children ran.

If Ukrainian refugees enter Poland by foot, their first experience of the European Union is likely to be the Medyka border crossing. They then walk down a short path to get a bus either to the Humanitarian Centre, in an abandoned Tesco, or to Przemyśl railway station. A man who has driven a piano from Germany plays sad music. There is a candyfloss machine, and a Frenchman dressed as pirate handing out crêpes. Members of religious sects strum ukuleles, sing kumbaya, and pray loudly at people. Turn your back on the refugees and you could almost imagine you were at Glastonbury.

I make my way to the station each day past a man playing a wooden flute, and push through a crowd of American evangelicals trying to hand out postcards with cartoon drawings of rainbows and castles. When English-speaking volunteers arrive at the station they tend to be directed to me. I ask about their language abilities, and find out if they have a car or minibus. If it transpires, as it often does, that they speak only English and do not have transport, I wonder what has made them come all this way instead of donating the hundreds of pounds it has cost them to one of the relief funds. What do they have to offer that is worth their taking up a bed desperately needed by a displaced person?

The kitsch circus isn’t helped by the photographers who swarm around every exhausted babushka and crying child with foot-long camera lenses. Some are journalists; others are bloggers or film students who tell me that they ‘simply had to be here’. I have lost count of the occasions I have been asked by a man with a camera to get out of a shot or to adjust my position while I am trying to advise a mother and her children where to go next, or how to find somewhere they might spend the night.

War tourism is nothing new. Stands for spectators were erected at the Battle of Austerlitz. During the Franco-Prussian War, people would follow the fighting, collecting souvenirs. In the Crimean War, Mark Twain led tours through Sevastopol where the sightseers collected shrapnel. And Benjamin Robert Haydon recorded in his diary that an English button manufacturer from Birmingham rode through the smoke and carnage of Waterloo on a cob. He had always wanted, he told the Duke of Wellington, to see a battle.

(London Review of Books)

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The house built by Michael Byrnes in 1884 on Little Lake Road in Mendocino. Mary Byrnes is on the left flanked by her daughters, Grace and Dorothy. Michael J. Byrnes is holding the colt. Ralph Byrnes is standing by the dog and Philip Hite is behind the fence. The house still stands at 44600 Little Lake Road. Note the "Mendocino Picket" style fence along the front. (Kelley House Museum)

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by Patrick Cockburn

For the first time the Russia-Ukraine negotiations look as if they might produce a peace deal as a top Russian defense official says that Russia will “dramatically” reduce its military activities around Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv.

This is being done “to create the necessary conditions for future negotiations” according to Alexander Fomin, Russia’s deputy defense minister attending the peace talks in Istanbul.

An agreement looks like a possibility for the first time since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February. Fomin said the withdrawal was taking place because Ukraine has agreed to neutrality and a non-nuclear status.

In recent days, the Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu told top military officials that Russia had largely completed the first stage of its operation and was shifting to “the main goal – the liberation of Donbas.”

The fact that these statements about a peace deal and a Russian pull-back are coming from senior Russian officials make it less likely that they are a propaganda maneuver or a delaying tactic, giving time for Russian forces to reorganize themselves after a series of setbacks.

Other Russian officials say that a peace agreement is still far off and it is possible that the Kremlin has decided to fight and negotiate at the same time.

Whatever the outcome of the peace negotiations in Istanbul, the Russian statements are very different from President Putin’s original demand five weeks ago that the President Volodymyr Zelensky be overthrown and the Ukrainian army lay down its arms.

Since then, the military and international balance of power between Russia and Ukraine has moved sharply – and probably permanently – against the former and in favor of the latter. Putin misjudged the strength of Ukrainian resistance, the power of his own military, and the reaction of NATO.

But although Russia has failed in its strategic objectives and has captured only a couple of Ukrainian urban centers, it still has a powerful military force in Ukraine.

Pictures of the shattered buildings and wrecked bridges have horrified the world, but they mask the grim truth that the level of devastation is still below the total destruction seen in besieged cities in the Middle East such as East Aleppo, the old city of Mosul and Raqqa.

There is no reason why Ukraine should not share the fate of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, if the fighting goes on for months or years.

Much of what Russia says that it has gained was obtainable without an invasion. Ukraine was unlikely to join NATO and the NATO powers said that none of their soldiers would fight in Ukraine. Russian demands for ‘de-Nazification’, and an end to the genocide of Russian speakers, will be easy to meet because neither allegation was true, but Putin could claim to have averted them.

The US has been ambivalent about how to keep out of a direct role in the war, but also to supply enough weapons and other assistance to keep Ukraine fighting.

“Such is the tenuous balance the Biden administration has tried to maintain as it seeks to help Ukraine lock Russia in a quagmire without inciting a broader conflict with a nuclear-armed adversary or cutting off potential paths to de-escalation,” says the New York Times in an analysis of US policy.

Of course, the war is not over yet. All sides in the conflict have a reason for making peace, but also a reason for fighting on to improve their positions.

A Russian motive for de-escalating around Kyiv may be that their operations in north Ukraine have failed around the capital and Chernihiv, and they are seeking to dress up this failure as a concession to boost peace talks. Since almost all information about Ukrainian victories and Russian defeats come from the Ukrainian side, the position on the battlefield may not be as clear cut as presented by the western media.

The Kremlin may also feel that it was it has been outmaneuvered by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has offered compromises, given an impression of moderation and stressed his wish to end the war. But his proposals may be a bitter pill for the Russians to accept because they include security guarantees for Ukraine which would be more effective than membership of NATO.

Putin has nobody to blame but himself that Ukraine is stronger than it was before the war and Russia considerably weaker. Successful peace negotiations will ultimately reflect this new balance of power between Ukraine and Russia and Russia and the world.

Even now it is difficult to see how Putin, despite his absolute control of the Russian media, will play down his defeat as his battered army slinks off home with its reputation in tatters. Through his own hubris and wishful thinking, he has created a well-armed pro-Western Ukraine – which is precisely what he went to war to prevent.

Putin blundered in imagining that Ukrainians would welcome his forces with open arms and he has been unable to devise a new strategy. The Kremlin appears to have been equally incapable of organize Russia’s vast resources in manpower to reinforce an army too small for its task.


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Book Review by Larry Bensky

“A Molecule Away from Madness: Tales of the Hijacked Brain.”
By Sara Manning Peskin. W.W. Norton 214 pp. $25.95.

Even if you’ve never had any training in science, or know what you know of science through casual exposure in school or newspapers, you must have wondered, “How did they discover what they discovered?”

Sara Manning Peskin knows how. And she tells what she knows in her new, and (deservedly highly praised book) “A Molecule Away from Madness.”

Be forewarned. It’s complicated. For example, sometimes someone gets an idea that a disease ravaging a group of people isn’t being helped by doctors and other caregivers doing all they can. Medicine (i.e., drugs) aren’t working either. Nutrition (including change of diet and dietary supplements) are at best palliative. Ditto for alternative hands-on treatments (acupuncture, chiropractory, massage.)

“Cognitive neurology,” says Dr. Peskin, is the answer.

Everything bad, ranging from annoyances to life-threatening emergencies, can be traced to molecules we have only partly discovered. And they have been partly discovered for hundreds of years now, though the pace and quantity of such discoveries has increased with the growth of new tools for finding the culprits and conquerors.

Dr. Peskin takes us through such once mysterious and thought to be incurable afflictions as cholera, dementia, neuritis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and, of course, Covid.

The eras and circumstances of each were, and are, vastly different. But one thing they have in common – one immensely encouraging thing – is that somebody or somebodies somewhere thought they could be cured. 

“A Molecule Away from Madness” to use the overused critical term for non-fiction that here applies, “reads like a novel.” Indeed, someone named Jeremy is thanked in the books’ dedication, for having taught Dr. Peskin “to tell a story.”

Those non-scientists reading this book will see how well he succeeded.

Take, for example, the tale of Alzheimer’s. First observed and chronicled in the late nineteenth century by an Austrian doctor whose name in bears, it has destroyed the lives of millions of patents and their families. 

Peskin picks up the story in Colombia, well into the 20th century (1985). Whereas Alzheimer had dissected the brain of an early Alzheimer’s victim, two younger, unconventional health workers found symptoms in an isolated area. They eventually returned, with brain samples, to their labs in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There, they found brain plaques and went about trying to develop substances that would stop deterioration. They’re still under study today. However, all that could be done has been done. All that might be done is in place to get done. Alzheimer’s is almost certainly on its way out.

I want to digress into a personal story here. As a high school junior I was recruited to participate as an unpaid intern in a microbiology laboratory. My job, at first, was to pre-wash, for later sterilization, lab equipment like test tubes and slides. I was dressed in Hazmat outfits, my gloved hands directing steaming water and special detergent onto tray after tray of glassware. My supervisor, after observing my thoroughness, promoted me to test preparation, where I was tasked with measuring chemicals for application into experimental environments of living microorganisms. 

I once saw a scene which I never forgot. All of the lab’s scientists and staff (I was one of the lowliest) were convened to what turned out to be a confrontation/trial of one of us. He was a post-doc student recently arrived. And the test results of an experiment he was conducting were at variance with results obtained by others using identical formulations. My boss himself, never reluctant to get his hands “dirty,” did some of the parallel testing. And there we all were, about two dozen of us, in our largest room, with my boss and the post doc in front of us.

“What can you tell us about this test?” my boss asked. The post-doc student leafed through papers (we still had most things on paper then – this was in the 1950’s) and then asked for time to go over them. His hands were shaking and he didn’t make eye contact as we left the room.

But there was another mass meeting, a very brief one, a few days later. As I recall the dialogue, it went something like my boss saying, “He made a mistake, but that’s not the bad part. The bad part is that he refused to admit he made a mistake. Even when I said that we all make mistakes, I’ve made a few myself…. and I told him a few true stories. Still, he wasn’t apologetic.”

He never came back.

That’s what I’m sure all of us retained.

That’s what I had in mind as I read “A Molecule Away from Madness.” Doctors Lopera and Kosik were like my boss. They came across an unusual phenomenon, devised a novel way of studying it, overcame tremendous obstacles in analyzing it (can you imagine transporting autopsy tissue from an isolated jungle to a modern laboratory 2,500 miles away?), took years to explore treatments, and eventually came up with answers — that are still under development.

The Alzheimer’s story is the longest one told by Peskin. But even in 20 pages Peskin finds room for only passing reference to an element unfortunately missing in her book. Who funds research? With what motivation? With what outcome? 

Here we have, if you will, one of humanity’s leading illnesses. We cannot find a way to use our ingenuity and resources. Because the enormous individual wealth, the enormous state resources, the plenty and bounty of our planet, are fenced off from our common good.

A medication for Alzheimer’s, Peskin informs us, was being developed in 2013 “with $15 million from the National Institutes of Health, $15 million from philanthropists, and $70 million from the drug company that made the medication.” Sounds like a lot, maybe, compared to what you may have, or ever hope to have. But it is pennies in the teacups of the planet. And these medications are often “fast tracked.” Which, bluntly speaking, means they are not sufficiently scientific. Science doesn’t like to be rushed,

That miracle drug for Alzheimer’s, Aduheim, has been “fast tracked” for sale.

If your situation is desperate, or you ‘re old and confused, or without the presence or language to understand what’s going on. you might say (or have said for you) “Bring it on!” Biogen, which manufacturers it, supposedly monitors what it does. Biogen makes money from its sale. See a potential conflict here? Governments and independent researchers are assumed to be doing the former without ties to the latter.

Nowhere in this book does Peskin discuss this contradiction, or legislative priorities, influencers, and outcomes. Nowhere does she write about how drug companies are massively involved in electoral politics through campaign donations and ubiquitous lobbyists.

Instead, she discourses at length – useful length – about proteins, about DNA and its nucleotides, about antibodies, and much else. My own formal education in such matters ended about the time in high school my job washing lab equipment and preparing experiments ended. Although in fact, with major impetus from my lab boss, I went to a University he respected, and with whose science departments he was associated. But my interest in what he was interested in didn’t last out my Freshman year. I almost failed Biology because I was required to read, with great teachers to guide me, philosophy, history and literature. Instead of haunting the labs, I haunted the libraries. 

Let’s end on a positive note. One of the major contributions of “A Molecule Away from Madness” is its emphasis on nutrition. If you’ve watched any commercial TV lately, you know what an annoying, loud, and persistent vibe is being pumped out to millions. Fats, salt, sugar, chemicals, are good for profits. If you think they’re good for people, take a closer look at people. Around here in California, they don’t look so good. Even the ones who are filling their shopping carts at Whole Foods. People consuming are rarely influenced beyond price, appearance and packaging. Smiling kids on cereal boxes. Fruit that doesn’t look weird or atypical (apples and oranges on trees aren’t all almost the same size and shape.). You don’t need a scientific background to improve what you eat and help avoid “madness.”

Thanks, Dr. Peskin for implicitly and explicitly pointing this out.

(Larry Bensky reviews books for MindSite News. He can be reached at

* * *

The Daubeneck Family, Mendocino, 1925

* * *


by Jonah Raskin

Have you ever felt like a fraud? Maybe you have at some juncture in your own life. Right now I feel like an imposter. I live in San Francisco, but I don't think of myself as a San Franciscan. It occurs to me that San Francisco itself is a fake urban center that can't take care of itself and its own inhabitants, thousands of whom live on the streets, hungry and homeless with no solution to their plight in sight. San Francisco feels like a dying city, though Mayor London Breed recently gave a press conference and insisted that it is not a dying city. She sounded like a public figure protesting too much. Also a public figure, who had surely heard through the grapevine that the city is on the way to a grave and then promptly went into denial mode. 

I recently tested my notion that the city is dying by asking nearly everyone I met, friends and strangers alike if they also thought that San Francisco was dying. Many, though not all, did. Some citizens pointed out that the libraries still work smoothly (yeah!), public transportation runs more or less on schedule and that streets are relatively clean, at least in some neighborhoods. I see those streets. They're in my neighborhood. Two men who work for the city sweep and clean regularly. That makes me happy. 

But in some places in the Mission and around Civic Center the streets and the sidewalks are filthy nearly all the time. Garbage is everywhere, albeit so are beautiful murals on the outside walls of buildings, especially in the Mission. Beauty and ugliness go hand in hand. Fresh air rushes in from the ocean but it doesn't entirely wash away the acrid smell of urine. 

One woman who was born and raised here told me “it's rotten to the core.” A Lyft driver explained, “San Francisco is two cities. It's lively during the day and at night it's a place of despair.” I rarely go out at night. The Lyft driver was planning to leave San Francisco after giving it a whirl and going back East where he was born. I was also born and raised in the East and rarely if ever felt like an imposter and a fake. Perhaps one has to have been born in San Francisco to feel like one isn't a fake and that it's as real a town as any other in the US. Still, to many inhabitants it's no longer a habitable place. They have already left or are packing their belongings and are moving to Oregon and Florida and places in-between. If they have money they will probably find some place to rent or buy that they can afford, though I suspect that cities all over the country are also dying. 

Maybe it's not the fault of public figures and government agencies. Maybe it's because we're trapped in a society that might accurately be called “late capitalism.” How late it is I don't know, though we are clearly sliding down toward the junk heap of civilizations both ancient and relatively new. That prospect doesn't make me happy. All empires inevitably go into decline and fall. Our empire is no exception.

Perhaps I should get with the program and live like a decadent in a decadent society. Anyone care to join me at the end of the dock that Otis Redding sang about in “Dock of the Bay"? Michelle Cruz Gonzales has recently written and published a novel set in the future in California, which is its own country. The state “forces intermarriage between whites and Mexicans for the purpose of creating a race of beautiful, intelligent, hardworking people.” That sounds like an act of desperation, but perhaps only desperate measures will save us. Meanwhile, I still feel like a fraud eager to escape from the condition I'm in. Will someone in Mendo throw me a life preserver please?

* * *

MOST VISITORS who come to New Orleans looking to learn more about the city’s history can expect to hear some version of the following story: wealthy white men, usually plantation owners, would attend opulent balls full of women known as “quadroons,” or one quarter Black.  These men courted quadroons with the purpose of selecting one to enter into plaçage, a quasi-legal system for long term extramarital love affairs with mixed race women. Allegedly, the two would sign a contract wherein the mixed race woman would receive financial support in exchange for living out their lives as the white man’s mistress. It was understood that the women at these balls were presented by their mothers, who hoped their daughters (and by extension, themselves) would achieve affluence by connecting to powerful white men. The story is so often repeated that it is rarely questioned. The only trouble is that plaçage never existed in New Orleans, proving the cost of repeating historical tropes without fully investigating them. “There was no system of mothers brokering placements for their daughters with white men they had met at a quadroon ball,” says historian Emily Clark, author of The Strange History of the American Quadroon—who has never once found a plaçage contract in all her exhaustive searches through the archives. “Instead, there was a broad range of relationships between free women of color and white men that originated in a variety of ways and often lasted for life.” Clark argues that the quadroon myth served as a way to diminish the historical material and political power of women of color, who in New Orleans were significant property owners, business women, and pillars of respectable society. Far from seeking out wealthy white male protectors, New Orleanian free women of color more commonly sought to marry free men of color, as an abundance of archival records from the St. Louis Cathedral show. The quadroon myth also served as a convenient way for Americans to “quarantine” (as Clark puts it) the idea of mixed race women in the exotic locale of New Orleans, when in fact they were prominent members of American society from the beginning. Sally Hemmings, who gave birth to six of Thomas Jefferson’s children, was one such “quadroon.”

* * *

* * *


by Bill Grimes


He lived in the attic of a four-story Victorian house built after the big quake. Once a queen now more Cinderella, it tilted downward at a slight angle on a despairing street suffused with potholes in a largely forgotten section of the city where the reduction in police was most evident. Its yesteryear bright yellow facade, blemished with years of neglect, was now a sallow shade. Its bay windows were specked with city soot; its dentil blocks under the cornice were in need of fill. The roof was impossible to see unless one was up the hill a bit, and then there was nothing of interest except maybe absence of a chimney suggested it was built during a time of economic stress like in the early 30’s.

He was a writer. 

His room was virtually square, about thirty by thirty. One wall supported the headboard of his bed, a side table with a reading lamp and a mini-fridge. Against another wall rested his desk, a swivel chair, and his computer. Above on two shelves were thirty or so books each replete with scribbled notes, observations and truths that he would have thought of if their author had not beaten him to it. There was a closet, the size of a gym locker, where he kept maybe a half dozen shirts and worn trousers, a drawer of underwear and socks that he washed twice a month in the quarter-fed machine in the basement, one hundred and eleven steps down and the same up.

The third wall was now an arch, an opening to the bathroom, a late-century addition funded by a previous owner craving rental revenue, with sink, medicine cabinet and shower-less bathtub. The fourth wall could hardly be categorized as a wall either with its two windows, near floor to ceiling, about five feet in height each shielded by two curtains that opened and closed horizontally with hand held polymer draw rods. His one addition to the room were the window treatments, midnight blue with intermittent representations of the sun and moon each about the size of a golf ball.

The writer had lived there for three years, producing a novel and a novella in that time. His agent who shopped them to all the usual publishing suspects, said no soap. Told him he had to write for an audience, not for himself. He needed to focus on plot. “Readers are demanding plot, not your allusive, elliptical style and your meticulous characterizations. Your work may appeal to intellectuals but there are not that many of them about and competition for their time is fierce.”

It was a way of saying his writing was not commercial. Give the masses what they want. Give them pablum, give them TV reruns. Give them dirty laundry. The writer thought Joyce’s agent probably told him that too. He pouted on that for a while, said to himself, “Fuck you, Saul. I’ll do it my way, self-publish. Recognition and the audience will come.” He didn’t believe it though, and so he didn’t try. A billion books for sale on Amazon.

He was working on a new novel, closing in on its finish. He felt he had found himself, his voice in step with audience interests. Saul sounded supportive, said the plot had real potential but it still drifted a bit. Agent jargon, drifted a bit. He wondered what language, what words the agent used when attempting to sell his product to publishers. Absorbing, scintillating, peerless. Whatever. 

The story involved a precocious sixteen year-old Boston girl, admitted to MIT, the subject of a fierce custody battle between two dysfunctional parents. The judge decided she had the maturity and wisdom to choose which parent to live with. It’s a free will story: showing human beings making choices and dealing with the consequences. Free will, Ayn Rand lectured, was the key requisite for characters in great fiction. 

Slowly, steadily though, he was losing faith in the story’s coherence. Could he persuade the audience that a judge would decide this? Was there a Massachusetts law requiring a child be of a certain age? In what ways exactly would her life change, if neither parent behaved as she and he testified to the judge? What will be the denouement? 

His answers to these questions kept changing, wafting from inside his world, the home in his head, to the imaginary other world beyond the curtains. And he kept altering the facts related to the parents and the girl. But he couldn’t convince himself which parent should be awarded custody of the child, and that was a problem. If he was ambiguous so his readers would be Saul said showing little enthusiasm for the book. 

He was a writer and this was his chosen venue, a life room isolated from other people where he could blot out the vagaries of daily existence, where he could savor the slow-motion moments, unaccompanied by the quotidian necessities that enslaved others, the perfect habitat for the creation of fiction, the many stories to be fused in his mind, a citadel of creation and content that never quite materialized.

* * *

* * *


by Dan Walters

California’s state government offers many — too many — examples of botched attempts to make itself more efficient by adopting high-tech data systems.

The current poster child for information technology projects that either failed to work or have become bottomless pits of expense is something called FI$Cal, supposedly a comprehensive state government finance control system.

Originally begun in 2005 and costing nearly $1 billion to date, FI$Cal has yet to function as envisioned.

Prior to the FI$Cal, the most spectacular IT failure was another comprehensive project, managed — or mismanaged — by the state Judicial Council and the Administrative Office of the Courts. Launched in 2002, it was supposed to be a centralized management system for the millions of civil and legal cases handled by the courts each year.

The project was abandoned a decade later after $530 million had been spent on unsuccessful efforts to make it work. But one aspect of the debacle continued for another decade and only this month was finally concluded.

The former Ventura County clerk, Michael Planet, who had been one of the IT project’s strongest backers and an early user, was forced to revert to paper filings when it was abandoned but continued to insist that lawsuits and other filings would not be made public until they had been processed.

That policy ran counter to a long-standing practice that once filed, lawsuits immediately became public documents and Courthouse News, a publication that specializes in legal matters, decided to fight Planet on the issue, eventually going to court itself.

The Judicial Council, whose members set policy for court operations, backed Planet by passing a rule saying documents were not public until processed and hired a law firm to battle Courthouse News for another decade.

As Courthouse News reported this month, “Filed in 2011, the saga of Courthouse News v. Planet included three trips to the Ninth Circuit.

The last one, handed down in 2020, is referred to as Planet III, and it said the First Amendment right of access attaches to new complaints when they are filed.

“This matched up with an age-old tradition in American courts where news reporters checked the new complaints at the clerk’s counter.

“The complaints were in a box or bin or cart where the intake clerks set them as soon as they came across the counter. Reporters checked the box at various times during the day but most often around closing time to make sure they saw all the day’s new cases.”

The 2020 decision, written by Judge Kim Wardlaw, declares, “The free press is the guardian of the public interest, and the independent judiciary is the guardian of the free press. These values hold especially true where, as here, the impetus for (Courthouse News’) efforts to obtain newly filed complaints is its interest in timely reporting on their contents.”

It took two more years, however, for the final chapter to be written. This month, the Judicial Council sent a check to Courthouse News for $2.9 million to cover its legal bills for fighting the case — money that ultimately comes from the state’s taxpayers. And that doesn’t count what the Judicial Council spent for its own attorneys.

By pursuing the case, Courthouse News struck a blow for open records and freedom of the press.

By stubbornly insisting that Planet’s position was correct, even changing its regulations, the Judicial Council wasted millions of taxpayer dollars.

Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising, given how the managers of the court system also blew more than a half-billion bucks on an inoperable IT project.


* * *

Hagenmeyer's Water Tower, built in 1884

* * *


How many examples of "regime change" blowing up in our faces do we really need before realizing that it's a disastrous policy? Will we really try it with a nuclear-armed adversary?

by Matt Taibbi

Not long ago, candidate Joe Biden’s most troubling behavioral tendency was the surprise outburst of belligerence. Campaigning, he’d challenge questioners to push-up contests, jam fingers in the sternums even of supporters, and plunge into rambling monologues about leg hairs and chain-fights. 

Now, the president’s face is often a mask of terror, like a man unsure of how he came to be standing in the middle of an intersection. Mental cars racing past, he met the press Monday, to clarify a statement made last week about Vladimir Putin: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.” Many interpreted this as a call for regime change. Not at all, Biden said, reading from a large-print cheat sheet — this reportedly happened — that reminded him to say he was merely expressing “moral outrage,” and “not articulating a change in policy.” When he ran out of pre-prepared remarks, he drifted back to danger, saying:

It’s more an aspiration than anything.  He shouldn’t be in power.

The AP writeup offered help: “He said he was expressing an ‘aspiration’ rather than a goal of American foreign policy.” (I’m sure nuclear-armed Putin appreciated the semantic difference). When Biden moved more toward candor, saying he made “no apologies” for his remarks, another reporter quickly tried to guide him back to a safe harbor: 

Q: Your personal feelings, sir?  Your personal feelings?

THE PRESIDENT: Personal.  My personal feelings.

Biden even offered his Princess Bride/Vizzini-esque analysis that “the last thing I want to do is engage in a land war… with Russia”:

Although administration mouthpieces Tony Blinken and Jen Psaki scrambled to reassure a nervous world that the U.S. is not intent on “doing regime change” in Russia, officials everywhere have been telling reporters the opposite on background.

This cat was out of the bag weeks ago. As Joe Lauria at Consortium points out, Biden was asked on February 24th, at the start of the invasion, what sanctions would accomplish if they hadn’t prevented war. His answer:

No one expected the sanctions to prevent anything from happening. That has to sh- — this is going to take time.  And we have to show resolve, so he knows what’s coming and so the people of Russia know what he’s brought on them. That’s what this is all about.

Biden said virtually the same thing in Brussels last week: 

Sanctions never deter… The maintenance of sanctions, the increasing the pain … we will sustain what we’re doing not just next month, the following month, but for the remainder of this entire year.  That’s what will stop him.

We heard this more explicitly from Boris Johnson on March 1st, “The measures we are introducing, that large parts of the world are introducing, are to bring down the Putin regime,” Johnson said. Lauria points out this was two days after British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey wrote in the Telegraph that “His failure must be complete… the Russian people empowered to see how little he cares for them. In showing them that, Putin’s days as President will surely be numbered… He’ll lose power and he won’t get to choose his successor.”

Jen Psaki’s non-committal answer to The Intercept’s question about whether or not Volodymyr Zelensky has autonomy to negotiate the end of sanctions, and the apparent disinterest of the United States in participating in peace talks, also speaks to this. Biden’s many “gaffes” on the subject have all let slip military or strategic initiatives, not diplomatic ones, like revealing that the U.S. is training Ukrainian troops in Poland. 

As Jacobin’s Branko Marcetic noted, Blinken even went out of his way to throw cold water on supposed positive news coming out of Russia-Ukraine negotiations. The Secretary of State said he hadn’t seen any signs of “constructive” progress, and any indication that Moscow might be willing to pull back might be to “deceive people and deflect attention.” Even the New York Times vaporized a headline that briefly appeared Tuesday suggesting progress in negotiations.

This is the before shot:

And this is the “very shortly after” shot, hours later:

Things could change at any moment. Biden could suddenly pivot to helping Zelensky secure a diplomatic solution. But as of this writing, evidence suggests the United States is not interested in a settlement, and is gunning for a long-term play that would unseat Putin, crack the Sino-Russian alliance, and reverse the political malaise that’s beset neoliberal democracies for years, with one Rumsfeldian “big move.”

Well, you say, so what? Shouldn’t America use the occasion of Putin’s seemingly disastrous and indefensible invasion to try to force him out of power?

Sure, that makes sense. Except for two things. ...

* * *

Somalia Flag

* * *


Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic Party have agreed to pay $113,000 in fines to settle a Federal Election Commission investigation into whether they violated a campaign finance disclosure law when they funded an opposition research effort into Donald J. Trump and Russia that resulted in a discredited document known as the Steele dossier.

During the 2016 race, the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee retained a law firm, Perkins Coie, which in turn hired a research group, Fusion GPS, that commissioned what became the dossier. In campaign spending disclosures, the campaign and the party said their payments to Perkins Coie were for legal services, not opposition research.

Dan Backer, a conservative lawyer, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on behalf of a group he leads, the Coolidge Reagan Foundation. It accused the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party of illegally hiding that they had been funding an opposition research effort.

The commission has not yet made public the findings of its investigation. But the agency sent a letter about the inquiry and its resolution to Mr. Backer on Tuesday, which he posted on his group’s website. The letter said the commission agreed that the campaign and the party had probably violated campaign finance law.

“We’re thrilled to have caused some modicum of accountability against Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee,” Mr. Backer said, arguing that the dossier had damaged American democracy. He added, “It’s not enough and it should be more.”

Graham Wilson, a lawyer representing both the campaign and the party in the matter, did not respond to a request for comment. But Daniel Wessel, a Democratic National Committee spokesman, said in a statement, “We settled aging and silly complaints from the 2016 election about ‘purpose descriptions’ in our F.E.C. report.”

So-called conciliation agreements attached to the letter sent to Mr. Backer showed that the campaign and the party disagreed that they had inaccurately described the purpose of their spending. They argued that the research Perkins Coie had commissioned was part of the legal services the law firm provided, including “in anticipation of litigation.”

Nevertheless, the documents said, the campaign and the party agreed in February to pay civil penalties totaling $113,000 — $8,000 from the campaign and $105,000 from the party — to resolve the matter “expeditiously and to avoid further legal costs.” The agreements said the campaign and the party did not concede that the Federal Election Commission was correct that they probably violated campaign finance law but “will not further contest” that finding either.

The commission documents said Perkins Coie — where a partner at the time, Marc Elias, was representing the Clinton campaign — paid Fusion GPS slightly more than $1 million in 2016, and the law firm was in turn paid $175,000 by the campaign and about $850,000 by the party during six weeks in July and August 2016. Campaign spending disclosure reports described most of those payments to Perkins Coie as having been for “legal services” and “legal and compliance consulting.”

The Washington Examiner earlier reported on the commission’s letter to Mr. Backer.

The Steele dossier was a set of reports written by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent whose research firm was a subcontractor that Fusion GPS hired to look into Mr. Trump’s purported links to Russia. The reports cited unnamed sources who claimed that there was a “well-developed conspiracy of coordination” between the Trump campaign and Russia and that Russia had a blackmail tape of Mr. Trump with prostitutes.

In addition to giving his reports to Perkins Coie, Mr. Steele shared some with the F.B.I. and reporters. The F.B.I. — which had opened its investigation into Russia’s election interference operation and links to the Trump campaign on other grounds — used part of the dossier in applications to wiretap a Trump associate. BuzzFeed published the dossier in January 2017, heightening suspicion about Mr. Trump and Russia.

It has become clear that the dossier’s sourcing was thin. No corroborating evidence emerged in the intervening years to support many of its claims, such as the purported sex tape, and investigators determined that one key allegation — that a lawyer for Mr. Trump, Michael D. Cohen, had met with Russian officials in Prague during the campaign — was false.

The primary source of information in the dossier was Igor Danchenko, a researcher hired by Mr. Steele to canvass for information about Mr. Trump and Russia from people he knew, including in Europe and Russia.

Mr. Danchenko told the F.B.I. in 2017 that he thought the tenor of the dossier was more conclusive than was justified. He portrayed the story of the blackmail tape as speculation that he was unable to confirm; a key source had called him without identifying himself, he said, adding that he had guessed at the source’s identity.

Last year, the Trump-era special counsel investigating the Russia inquiry, John H. Durham, indicted Mr. Danchenko on charges that he lied to the F.B.I. about some of his sources.

At the same time the Federal Election Commission decided that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party had probably violated campaign finance law, the agency dismissed related complaints against Mr. Elias, Perkins Coie, Fusion GPS and Mr. Steele, according to the commission’s letter to Mr. Backer and a letter to Mr. Elias that was obtained by The New York Times.



  1. Craig Stehr March 31, 2022

    Sitting at a table in the common area of Ukiah’s Building Bridges homeless shelter at 1:42 in the afternoon. The ACER computer with a new AC adapter cord, which RespecTech found to be the only problem technically, (and not the dc jack which Emerald Technology mis-diagnosed to be the problem in Garberville), is now useful again. Ate a sumptuous 11:30 morning meal at Plowshares today, served by those dedicated Catholic Workers. You may wonder why I am sharing this information. After all, it does not appear to be of any particular universal importance, and maybe not even global, national, statewide, nor even regional. O Malcontents of Postmodern Planet Earth, the cuckoo clock is ticking. Identify with that which is prior to consciousness. Eternal Witness. Chant “I’m not the body, I’m not the mind, Immortal Self I am”.
    Craig Louis Stehr
    Cricket phone kept in the luggage: (707)807-9846
    Snail Mail: P.O. Box 938, Redwood Valley, CA 95470
    March 31st, ’22

    • chuck dunbar March 31, 2022

      Craig’s the lonely entry
      In the Comments this day.
      Guess none of us folks
      Have much else to say.

      But we’ll see just what
      Comes on the morrow.
      Maybe April Fools’ Day
      Will lighten our sorrow.

      A bunch of tricky jokes
      On a day meant for fun–
      They’ll bring forth laughs,
      That humor well-spun.

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