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A WARMING TREND will occur across Northwest California through mid week as an upper-level ridge develops over the Western United States. Temperatures will then cool during late week as the ridge shifts east and a trough of low pressure develops across the Northeast Pacific. (NWS)
WHERE’S THIS SMOKE COMING FROM?
The Six Rivers Lightning Complex Fire in Humboldt and Trinity Counties
WHO’S ON FIRST? WHY, EX-CEO ANGELO, OF COURSE
by Mark Scaramella
If you came in late, like lots of people suddenly interested in the County’s budget mess, you might think that Mendo only recently discovered that it can’t find its assets with two finance departments.
Last Wednesday, KZYX host Karen Ottoboni asked Supervisor Ted Williams about his claims that he doesn’t know the County’s financial condition. The scattered discussion was hard to follow because Ottoboni didn’t get into specifics and Williams was slippery.
Nevertheless, here are a few selected excerpts from Williams:
“The Executive Office financial team tries to provide the reporting it can do based on the data it has. … Are we on track on the budget this year for a department? Are we spending according to our plan? I don’t know. At a mid-year report we might find out some departments went over or maybe we had a surplus at the end of the year. I don’t know. Special Districts have monthly spending reports. They know what they’re spending and it’s reported regularly. We are at a time where we owe it to the public to have those regular reports. … I don’t think the CEO has access to all the financial systems. So some of that reporting, estimates can be provided. You don’t know how much revenue you’re going to have. Property tax, sales tax, bed tax, cannabis tax, other state sources… My first year, nobody else thought this was a concern. I think we’ve been winging it as a county. We may even have a decrease in revenue. Can we afford to give raises? I don’t know. We need more accurate numbers. … All supervisors have asked for financial reports. We made do with what we could get [in the past]. … I think you should have the Auditor and CEO on the air and work out who’s going to do it live on KZYX. I asked the CEO [Darcie Antle] to generate it and she told me she doesn’t have access to the financial systems to do it. That’s the same answer I got from Carmel Angelo. I don’t doubt that. I don’t think the CEO has a way to get into that financial system. I don’t have a preference who does it. … The only reporting I’ve seen is far after the fact. … We have software that can’t generate a report.”
The most annoying statement here is Williams’ claim that “my first year nobody else thought this was a concern.”
Please. In Williams’s first year, the only budget subject he was interested in was his silly “zero based budgeting” proposal that obviously doesn’t apply to a county like Mendocino where most spending is mandated. John McCowen was the only supervisor who even brought up monthly budget reporting and it went nowhere because Williams and the rest of the Board didn’t support McCowen.
Apparently Williams and his current colleagues actually believe that their CEO is unable to produce a simple monthly budget vs. actual report for each department. Various pathetic excuses have been tossed out: they don’t have access, they don’t have software, they need state help, they don’t have timely info, they don’t know who should do it… And therefore they don’t know if they can give employees a raise or absorb other unplanned expenses.
Just last year CEO Angelo somehow found a way to produce a monthly budget vs actual report by department which she included in her May 2021 CEO report.
Of course there were obvious questions about why some departments were running over budget as the end of the fiscal year (July 2020-June 2021) approached. So we asked CEO Angelo about them at the time and the CEO replied. The CEO’s answers were incomplete and unconvincing (and dated now), but they were an opportunity to start monthly reviews.
Clearly the CEO is and always has been quite capable of producing a monthly departmental budget vs actual report. But, as CEO Angelo explained in her response: “The very nature of your questions is the reason the County budget team has been hesitant to present a ‘budget to actual’.”
Aha: The real reason they don’t do it: We don’t like having to answer questions about it.
Angelo continued: “County Government is dependent on State, Federal, and grant revenue funding, which typically is billed quarterly or annually, and reimbursement is not received until at least 30 days after billing. This cycle of billing and reimbursement causes a delay in posting revenue, which impacts ‘budget to actual’ reports produced on a monthly basis.”
Yes, but that applies to grant funded departments, not the general fund departments that CEO Angelo included in that first report. Nor do reimbursement delays have anything to do with budget vs. actual expense tracking. In fact, later in her explanation for individual departmental overruns, CEO Angelo never claimed that variations had anything to do with delayed reimbursements.
Nevertheless, the CEO’s response to our inquires, while dated now, is clear proof that the CEO not only has the information to produce it and can produce it, but she is fully responsible for it. Yet Williams and his ignorant Board colleagues and CEO Antle — Angelo’s budget point person until last March — continue to pretend that somehow if they all “get together” they can figure out a way to produce the ordinary reports that they can and should have been generating for years.
This kind of financial and managerial incompetence cannot be fixed by more “getting together.” They simply have to produce the reports and get on with it.
Actually, they need two reports (which just about every other organization in California routinely does): 1. budget vs. actual for revenue and the other budget vs. actual for expenses. The Auditor should and probably can produce the revenue report. The CEO can and should produce the expenses by department. This is all standard stuff.
In answering our ordinary questions back in May of 2021, CEO Angelo never claimed that there were problems accessing financial data or that software was inadequate to produce reports or that anyone had to get together with anyone else, or more discussions were necessary or whatever.
CEO Angelo was so proud of her responses to our questions that she even included our questions and her answers in her next CEO report for June of 2021. But she did not include another budget report for June. In fact, May of 2021 was the only and last month she did it. Did the Supervisors pay any attention? No. They prefer to feign ignorance and pretend that their CEO can’t do what she is highly paid to do and obviously can do. Instead she, like her long-serving predecessor, is “hesitant” because — horror of horrors — questions might arise.
Having failed to demand these ordinary financial reports for years, if the Supervisors don’t know these basic elements of what they need to know about County finances, they have no one to blame but themselves.
DRIVING CALIFORNIA BYWAYS TO A REUNION
by Katy Tahja
Loving parts of my past I jumped at the opportunity to return to the San Diego area for my 56th high school reunion in July. But not wanting to possibly endanger my health mixing with crowds in an airport or on a crowded plane I chose to rent a car and drive alone.
It was nice to be out on the road again after the lockdown. I cannot remember the last time I drove Highway 101 all the way south through the state. It’s the little inconsequential things you see out the window that entertains you.
I marvel at birds sitting on the telephone wire so evenly spaced along the line. I counted at least 10 giant wind turbines spinning in the Salinas River valley where they were absent before. A small grass fire was burning up a hillside from the edge of the road. I bet the homeowners at the top of the hill were nervous but I could hear fire engine sirens approaching. I understand why the Salinas valley is called the “Salad Bowl of America” after driving past miles of salad greens.
And speaking of greens, driving into downtown LA’s Koreatown there were green leafy plants piled three feet high at curbside fruit and veggie stands and I have no idea what it was, other than popular. On Highway 101 at the Cuesta grade was a “Bear Crossing” sign with a mom and 3 cubs on it.
Silly road signs still entertain me, like Rocks Road (though I didn’t find a Pebble Lane) or Echo Valley. Flocks of flying pelicans are fun to observe and condors are the bird of choice to put flying overhead if someone is making a mural. On I-5 at City of Commerce outside LA the old Samson Tire Factory has been saved. Built to look like Assyrian temples in the 1920’s when commercial factories were architecturally noteworthy, the buildings were saved and became the Citadel Shopping Center.
Now talking about reunions — as an author I get involved in different writing projects and my current one is a biography of Charles Surendorf (1906-1979), an artist who has family in Comptche. The man was a talented block print artist and painter who left a wealth of material for a biographer to draw upon, including a rough draft autobiography. “A harbinger of old age” is what he referred to when an invitation for a 50th reunion came from his high school in Indiana.
Surendorf mused “Everyone is astonishingly old — they talk old and they act old and worst of all, look very old.” The artist later said “My fondness for the ludicrous won out,“ and he went back east. Staying sober before the reunion he wanted to be able to recognize faces and read name tags. Looking at classmates he then decided “After a half century nature’s make-up has made a total job of alteration and these people could have been total strangers. The event went on with violent hand pumping, loud laughter and routine complimentary salutations that served to take the curse off the truth — we’re OLD.”
There were 261 Coronado High School graduates in 1966. We were a legion of military brats, over-achievers, and six boys won military academy placements. We had surfers, jocks, a poet, and we were off to do great things. We reunited at 10, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 and 50 years but lost out on a 55th reunion due to Covid, hence the 56th.
I bless my classmates who have been the glue holding our class together. While many classmates have passed away, the fates and locations of only 10 classmates are missing. Websites like Ancestry aid sleuthing. The folks who gathered had become military officers, lawyers, teachers, librarians, landlords, spouses and grandparents.
Forty of us met outdoors for a meal and memories. We realized our graduating class may have been the last unaffected by the arrival of marijuana and the student body changed rapidly after that. We were innocent. We shared stories of three generation families living together through the pandemic. We’ve all had triumphs and failures. We now realize we lived under a social “caste” system back then, when many social clubs and activities were for the children of military officers. (God forbid, my dad was only an enlisted man Chief Petty Officer, which put me in the “peasant” class and I was excluded).
No one wanted the evening to end we were so wrapped up in memory and sentiment and we are already planning our 60th reunion. Life has treated us well and been kind to us. After all, we’re still here. Old friends are the best friends. Coronado Islanders class of 1966 still rocks!
THE FAMILY ORDEAL, UPDATED
by Tommy Wayne Kramer
All happy families are alike, and they live somewhere I’ve never been.
All weird families are screwed up in different ways, and please allow me to count them. I just returned from a seven-day family gathering that might be called a ‘reunion’ depending on the word’s definition.
My family seems to have been assembled with random pieces from a parts bin and bolted together without much thought on how, or if, the components mesh with one another. If I didn’t know better I’d assume we were orphans who happened to live under one roof through childhood and teen years, and then dispersed to far-flung zip codes.
Cleveland, Ohio was the family nest but none of the four children, once taken off the leash, remained within 500 miles of what had been known as “The Best Location in the Nation.” My sister and younger brother went (separately) to New York City, the older bro planted his flag in South Carolina 50-plus years ago and I went to California. Geographically and culturally I finished in fourth place, but being stubborn I squandered most of my life there anyway.
So for 2022 we reunioned ourselves in a vast brick house in rural Pennsylvania amongst the Amish and ourselves for what I usually describe as the family ordeal. The ‘rents died decades ago, and our youngest sibling, the one best at orchestrating family get-togethers, is also gone. It shows.
My wife Trophy is of Italian descent and that also shows. For her, Family is Everything, blah blah blah, down to the cooking, the greetings, and the willingness to be in each other’s presence hours at a time, sometimes even in the same room.
She’s often stunned but mostly saddened at my family’s fragmented disunity, our lack of familiarity and emotional connection with each other. None of us, including missing parents and brother, has ever hugged another member of the brood in 70-plus years and counting. Kind words and warm exchanges among us were so few I’d probably remember one if I ever heard it.
You may be dimly aware I write a weekly column for the Ukiah Daily Journal, Monarch of Mendocino County daily newspapers, and enjoy a supporting role with the Anderson Valley Advertiser, the best weekly in the country.
No one in my existing family has ever asked to read anything I’ve ever written, although it’s possible they’re unaware I write. How would they know? I don’t brag or talk about it. I (self-)published two books, sent them copies of each, and as of Wednesday, August 9, 2022, haven’t had any response, written or verbal from my brother (sis once mentioned she liked the second one).
My brother got married in the early 1970s and he and his wife have been together ever since, although they’ve lived in different states, having taught at different universities. My sister-in-law has never missed one of our family reunions and, as expected, attended this most recent one.
Two or three months ago I googled her for the first time ever because, frankly, she’s rather famous. In the third or fourth paragraph it said she married my brother in 1971, and that they divorced in 1974.
Huh. Hmm. Well whaddya know.
Wife Trophy suspects my sister and her longtime husband also divorced a decade or two ago. Maybe so. He comes to all the reunions too. No one has ever asked if they’re still married. Ho hum, shrug, and whaddya know.
So yeah, that’s my family. We don’t exactly keep secrets so much as we’re indifferent to what anyone else in the family is doing and have no reason to inquire. Why we bother to rendezvous six or seven times a decade is unclear.
(It’s worth noting that the “youngsters” of our families, all in their 30s and even 40s, get along famously and happily. They chat and laugh and stay up late together to do more chatting and laughing.)
What my wife finds most perplexing is the lack of curiosity among us tribal elders regarding each other’s lives. Our orbits don’t cross, our interests don’t intersect, our concerns are ours alone and our futures have nothing in common.
Maybe it seems sad and desperate to those who believe we ought to be exchanging hearty hugs, asking personal questions, revealing private joys and hidden fears, holding back nothing and giving up everything in the name of Family.
Could be. Maybe so.
(Tom Hine was tickled to learn that, in the teeth of the worst recession in 45 years, California’s tone-deaf Democrats raised the state gas tax (!) hiked the Golden Gate bridge toll to $9.40 (!!) and will withhold issuing promised summer subsidy checks until October. TWK says “Let’s Go Gavin!”)
Ernie Pardini and I were discussing the river otters Friday night. He was telling me how they have made a comeback in the last few years. (He also told me that is where all the sucker fish and crawdads went to). The next day we went to our swimming hole in Philo and lo and behold two river otters came. They swam and played for about a half hour. I was lucky enough to have my camera with me and got a few good shots! Thought I would share with you.
GOOD BUY CLOTHES POINT ARENA SUSPENDS COLLECTIONS
Thanks to the community and visitors who shopped at Good Buy Clothes, we are pleased to announce donations totaling $25,500 were made to various local nonprofits for 2021/22! Recipients include Acorn Windy Hollow Farms, Redwood Coast Educational Foundation, Gualala Food Bank, South Coast Food Bank, Gualala Rotary, Meals on Wheels, RCMS-Hospice, Coast Community Library, Mendonoma Health Alliance, PAHS Triathlon, Pacific Community Charter School and Project Santa.
Good Buy Clothes, located at 243 Main Street in Point Arena, sells donated new and lightly used clothing, shoes, accessories and household items. Its monthly-end sales event is held on the last Saturday of each month from 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM. Our website is www.goodbuyclothes.com, which posts our monthly flyer and event calendar.
Sadly, GBC must temporarily suspend collections of items from the local public due to our excess inventory and absence of storage space. Normally, our excess collections or unsold items are sent to other thrift stores in Fort Bragg to Santa Rosa, but they all have ceased collections due to their own excess inventories. We hope this is a temporary situation, as demand for clothing should increase with the approach of the school year and holidays.
GBC was founded in 1994 by Sister Maura Murphy and Sister Celeste Dempsey of the Ursuline Sisters, an Order of the Roman Catholic Church. GBC is currently managed and staffed by unpaid community volunteers who meet weekly to sort, price and display donated apparel. All sales proceeds are donated to local charities or non-profits.
GBC invites all community members and visitors to our beautiful coast to our next month-end sale on Saturday, August 27. We hope to see our inventory reduced so that we may again start taking donations of clean, lightly used clothing.
LOCAL MENDOCINO COAST INN TACKLING HOMELESSNESS IN THE BEST WAY!
We thought your readers might be interested in this ingenious way we at The Andiron in Little River are doing our part to tackle homelessness - and financially benefit ourselves at the same time.
The Zoom meeting below begins this particular discussion at about the 36.25 point. Feel free to use it to write a story and, of course, feel free to contact me for further information.
BEARING THE TORCH
Thanks to Larry Bensky for his reminiscences of the late Pacifica radio host Larry Josephson (“Plugged Out,” AVA, Aug. 3). I recall as a teenager tuning in to New York’s WBAI one day in the late 1970s.
Apparently, a staff member or members had objected to some ethnic humor that had been broadcast over its airwaves. Josephson’s response during the program I had just tuned into was to defend the importance of humor and laughter on the Left. To underline his point, he proceeded to rattle off a litany of ethnic jokes for the remainder of his show, two of which I remember to this day:
Q: What constitutes Irish foreplay?
A: “Brace yourself, Bridget, I‘m coming.”
Q: What is a Jewish American Princess’s favorite position?
A: Facing Bloomingdales.
Gore Vidal, Alexander Cockburn... and now Larry Josephson. At least the mighty AVA’s Off the Record is still bearing the torch.
* * *
Mark Scaramella recalls another one:
Q: How can you tell if an Irishman has spilled his drink?
A: From the splinters in his tongue.
CHRIS SKYHAWK: When I ran for Supervisors in 2018, I was astounded how much vitriol was directed at Michelle Hutchins. I gained a great respect for her endurance. Witch hunts are alive and well in Mendo…..
JACOB ON FORT BRAGG: Re: Check Their Priorities
Although the City Council doesn’t do much that can affect some of the areas of concern noted in the letter (like veterinary services) the state of disrepair of our downtown along Franklin Street is something we could be doing something about. Many previously-empty storefronts are being filled but those that remain vacant are not being maintained and the City could be doing something about it. What happened to the façade improvement program we talked about or a business improvement district that could help retrofit all the buildings with fire sprinklers? Why does the City Council accept push back and reasons why we can’t turn the vacant corner lot at Franklin and Redwood into a pocket park with additional much-needed public restrooms? What happened to reforming our nuisance ordinance and possibly start imposing a vacancy tax for empty storefronts or inactive businesses taking up valuable real estate. Why has the land use table not been amended to require a retail component to all downtown storefronts to encourage pedestrian activity and a vibrant downtown? Why does our town sometimes still smell like an open sewer because of how our own wastewater treatment plant operates when the equipment that was supposed to address that problem has already been installed?
The community might want answers to these questions and more as we consider our choices for who we want to represent us on the Fort Bragg City Council.
FROM THE SUPERINTENDENT:
I have one more update, which I neglected to mention earlier related to the bus:
Bus--one ride no loop back to campus for a late bus:
It has been brought to my attention that some kids (particularly middle and high school) take the first bus and go into town and then come back for the late bus back home. This is a liability for the district as we are still liable for them. Please remind your students, they GET ONE BUS RIDE. We are not delivering students downtown and having them unsupervised for a couple of hours when they are in our "instructional nexus". Please make that clear. They can go home on the first bus or stay for after school programs/sports and take the second bus. No double dipping.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Louise Simson, Superintendent
Anderson Valley Unified School District
I have been coming in and out of the Mendocino County jail since 1986. For the past 36 years I’ve seen my share jail deputies come and go. Some of them to suicide, being fired, quitting, exchanging cigarettes with female inmates for sex, and some of them retired.
Then there are the handful of deputies who are forced down the road for abusing inmates. These are the ones who for obvious reasons I can spot a mile away. I predict right now that the next deputy to leave the jail over abuse towards inmates will be a twenty-something bloated pimply pasty white bipolar rookie who routinely berates inmates in sudden outbursts of rage filled with vulgarity and profanity. I have witnessed him on several occasions physically abuse and assault inmates on a criminal level. I can assure the reader that had any of these incidents been videotaped and the video of posted to the community the citizenry would be at the steps of the jail protesting. Yes, it’s that bad!
What makes the situation even more despicable is this deputy’s abuse has been witnessed and condoned by his fellow deputies in the jail. We have all watched the videos on youtube and the evening news. Some poor schmuck is handcuffed in a holding cell being beaten on by a jail guard while a handful of deputies are present with their heads turned the other way.
During my humble yet chaotic 54 years on this earth I have been subject to many forms of abuse and witnessed many varieties of abuse. One of the worst is that of a physically abusive corrections officer. Mainly because they are most often beating and abusing a human being who is restrained and has no way of defending themselves. I can not imagine a more cowardly act than that.
Do not get me wrong. Most of the corrections that are decent people. They do their jobs with integrity and treat inmates with dignity and respect. Like human beings.
But then there are the deputies who have undiagnosed mental health disorders, the abusive ones who eventually get weeded out and set down the road. In this deputy’s case I sadly predict that it will happen with him. Hopefully sooner than later!
The jail has become more and more crazy over the years. Most of my adult life I would come here and be housed in B-tank, the convict tank where most of us old school prison guys know how to act and live by the convict code of behavior.
Nowadays the jail consists of mainly mentally ill inmates and those who are so tweaked out by bad dope that they are unmanageable. A perfect feeding ground for the abusive deputies in the system.
The only way for an old-school dude like me to survive this cesspool is to roll solo. When I arrive in booking I tell the deputies from that I am assaultive. They then clear a holding tank just for me where I have it all to myself. I grab a roll of toilet paper for a pillow and sleep for a few days. They book me and I am housed in isolation where contact with crazy inmates and assaultive cops is held to a minimum.
This trip through the system has me going to state prison for seven years this time. Back in the day this crap was kind of fun. Now it is so nasty, surely I must change my evil ways!
All my best,
Alan ‘Sonny’ Crow
Mendocino County Jail, Ukiah
CATCH OF THE DAY, August 14, 2022
TRACY DZIEDZIC, Berkeley/Fort Bragg. DUI, resisting.
MATTHEW HART, Basking Ridge, New Jersey/Ukiah. DUI.
THOMAS HOUSTON, Ukiah. DUI.
ANN MARIE LANDAUER, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
LUIS PALOMINOS-PALOMARES, Windsor/Ukiah. DUI, suspended license for DUI.
JUSTIN SETTLES, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation.
MARIA TREJO, Upper Lake/Ukiah. DUI, no license.
ROBERT WAGENET, Willits. DUI-alcohol&drugs.
WILLIAM WILLIAMS JR., Ukiah. Domestic abuse, false imprisonment, stalking and threatening bodily injury, controlled substance.
WHY WOULD ANYONE…
As I read that there is a teacher shortage, not only in California but all over the country, I am not surprised. Sadly, teaching has become an occupation that a lot of young folks can’t afford to enter. Teachers are seriously underpaid. I taught school for 32 years in a district, and it took me all those years to make more than $50,000. Why would anyone choose teaching as a profession based on salary?
Teaching also has become a somewhat dangerous job. Classroom shootings have become common news. I cannot imagine being told I had to have a gun in my classroom. Scary!
Times have definitely changed during my 23 years of retirement. Violence and guns have become the main attraction for far too many folks and, unfortunately, our highly paid politicians do little to address the problem. Teaching is a worthwhile profession that deserves respect, a decent salary and a safe classroom.
UNBLOCK THE STATE POLICE RADIO COMMUNICATIONS
For most of the past century, the police scanner has been an invaluable resource for journalists who keep tabs on potential crime in their communities.
Monitoring the radio calls of law enforcement informs reporters of possible offenses and enables them to know where to go to cover a breaking news story and to observe the actions of cops.
But suddenly in the past two years, police across California have blocked radio communications, making it impossible for journalists to monitor activity. The cops claim — falsely — that they have no other way to protect citizens’ personal and criminal information.
Just as it seemed that state lawmakers and police departments in California were getting the message about the need for police transparency, about 120 law enforcement agencies across the state, including much of the Bay Area, have encrypted their chatter.
As a result, reporters often don’t learn about crime and disaster scenes until hours or days later, if at all, and are dependent on cops’ accounts of events. In other words, police get to decide what information they want out there and put their own spin on what transpired.
That’s anathema to the notions of a free press and police oversight. This massive coverup needs to stop.
Sen. Josh Becker, D-Menlo Park, has authored legislation that would require police to make all radio communications publicly accessible except for discussions of personal information, such as criminal history, driver license numbers and tactical or undercover operations.
Senate Bill 1000 has passed the Senate and is in the Assembly. Lawmakers there must decide whether to walk their post-George-Floyd transparency talk or look the other way while police agencies seal off public access.
Inaction would be a shameful regression after the Legislature, thanks to efforts of Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, passed laws in 2018 and 2021 requiring release of records of police misconduct. The documents have revealed disturbing abuses and reinforced the need for more transparency.
Many police unions and law enforcement agencies resisted the laws. One of the key obstructionists to records disclosure was Xavier Becerra, who, while California attorney general, was more concerned with protecting bad cops and kowtowing to unions that politically supported him than to enforcing Skinner’s records-disclosure legislation.
So perhaps it’s not surprising that, under Becerra’s reign, the state Attorney General’s Office in October 2020 issued guidelines that led to the shutdown of access to radio communications. It was prompted by legitimate concerns about disclosure of personal information.
But rather than encourage police agencies across the state to exercise caution and segregate discussion of those details, Becerra offered them the option to simply encrypt all radio communication, sealing it from public access.
It was a vast overreach that Becker’s bill seeks to correct. And, just as Skinner confronted when she launched her effort to open police records, Becker faces sky-is-falling predictions from law enforcement of huge costs to make radio transmissions accessible again.
Some police agencies claim that, since Becerra’s directive, they have shifted to technology that fully encrypts their communication, and modifying or getting out of that would be costly. But one of those police agencies, Palo Alto, suddenly had a change of heart last week as its chief determined the problem was easily solvable.
It turns out that some of the cost claims are highly inflated, as an analysis by the state Department of Finance indicated. Agencies such as the California Highway Patrol, state Department of Justice and University of California police expect only minor costs to comply with Becker’s bill.
To be sure, there might be some costs. But they’re small compared to the importance of transparency. California can’t have its police operating without public or press oversight.
— Bay Area News Group (Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
UKRAINE, SUNDAY, Sunday, August 14, 2022
Kharkiv. Russian artillery attacks on the city of Kharkiv injured five civilians, including one reportedly in critical condition, said Kharkiv Governor Oleh Synyehubov.
The shelling damaged critical communication infrastructure in the city, caused severe damage to a college facility and moderate damage to many residential buildings.
Enerhodar. According to the Mayor-in-exile of Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhya region, Dmytro Orlov, Russian artillery attacks on the city killed a high-profile worker of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, which is located in the city. Several other civilians were injured in the attack.
Representatives of 42 countries, including all EU member states and many Western allies, have issued a statement calling for Russia to immediately withdraw its military from the perimeters of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant following reports of the facility being repeatedly shelled. The statement alleges that the presence of Russian military forces at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant “prevents the operator and the Ukrainian authorities from fulfilling their nuclear and radiation safety obligations in accordance with international conventions,” and “prevents the IAEA from fulfilling its safeguards mandate.”
Any possible seizure of Russian assets by the United States will completely destroy Moscow's bilateral relations with Washington, said Alexander Darchiev, the head of the North American Department at the Russian foreign ministry. It is not immediately clear what exactly Darchiev is referring to, but it is possible that his statement refers to suggestions made by some Western officials of using Russian assets to finance Ukraine’s post-war restoration. Darchiev has also said that if the U.S. declares Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, as the Ukrainian government has repeatedly requested, diplomatic ties between the two countries, which are already tense, could be further damaged or fully severed.
Germany's gas storage facilities have been filled to 75% a couple of weeks ahead of target, according to data from European operators group GIE. The German government had set an outline that aims for gas storage levels to reach 75% by September 1. The next targets are 85% by October 1 and 95% by November 1. Gas heats more than half of the homes in Germany and the government there has been racing to ensure there is enough to avoid an unprecedented shortage during winter, including through such measures as placing a gas levy on households and enacting an emergency plan, which, in the event of a complete cutoff from Russian gas supply, could see the country implement gas rationing measures. Rationing would prioritize households and could have a significant negative impact on Germany’s industrial capabilities.
Global rating agencies S&P and Fitch lowered Ukraine's foreign currency ratings to selective default and restricted default on Friday as they consider the country's debt restructuring—which includes a two-year freeze on payments on nearly $20 billion in international bonds—distressed. S&P lowered Ukraine's foreign currency rating to "SD/SD" from "CC/C," saying that "given the announced terms and conditions of the restructuring, and in line with our criteria, we view the transaction as distressed and tantamount to default." Fitch cut the country's long-term foreign currency rating to "RD" from "C," as it deems the deferral of debt payments as a completion of a distressed debt-exchange.
AG MERRICK GARLAND’S RAID of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago is a farce of law
by Michael Goodwin
Reserved, studious and precise, Merrick Garland appears to be an attorney general selected by central casting. Unfortunately, the part he is playing belongs to another era, one where the government was widely trusted.
After orchestrating one of the biggest events in the history of the Department of Justice, Garland proved himself too small for the moment. Whether he volunteered or was pushed into authorizing the unprecedented FBI raid on the home of former President Donald Trump, he was woefully unprepared for the entirely predictable fallout.
It should not have been a surprise to him that about half the country believes the raid was motivated by politics. Or that Trump’s support, which had been slipping, instantly started rising among Republicans and some independents.
Even if Garland hadn’t considered politics, he might have thought of the declining credibility of his organization, especially after its shameful spying on Trump in the 2016 election.
Gallup has tracked Americans’ confidence in 14 institutions for decades, and the criminal-justice system ranks close to the bottom of the barrel.
It won the confidence of just 20% of respondents last year, beating out only big business, TV news and Congress, which registered a measly 12%. Small businesses topped the chart, enjoying the confidence of 70% of respondents, with the military second, at 69%.
The public mood was apparently news to Garland, who remained out of sight for three days after the raid despite demands for an explanation. He still has not grasped the fact that it is a blaring conflict of interest for Joe Biden’s AG to raid the home of Biden’s predecessor and his likely opponent in 2024.
As I have noted, The New York Times reported in April that Biden was frustrated that Garland had not moved faster to prosecute Trump. That puts Biden’s fingerprints on the raid, with his wish becoming Garland’s command.
When he finally spoke, Garland was a lousy lawyer for his case. He foolishly took no questions as he read a statement that claimed absolute rectitude on his part and scolded critics of the FBI.
Running a leaking ship
He insisted he could not, under law, give any information about the search, but said he would petition the judge to release the warrant and a list of what was taken. The search, he emphasized, was by-the-book and had absolutely no political dimension.
And then the leaks started. Within hours, and long before the warrant was made public, headlines from numerous outlets friendly to the administration began with words like “FBI seized” and “FBI recovered” before going on to describe how many boxes of documents agents took and what was in them.
The Washington Post was first to claim some documents were “relating to nuclear weapons” and said the search “underscores deep concern among government officials about the types of information they thought could be located at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and potentially in danger of falling into the wrong hands.”
Shades of Russia, Russia, Russia right there. Subsequent headlines that Trump could face charges under the Espionage Act confirmed the government’s intent to again paint him as a traitor.
As Yogi Berra said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”
Indeed it is and, naturally, all the sources were anonymous, with The Washington Post saying they “spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.”
In plain English, the leakers were committing a crime by disclosing the info Garland said was confidential. But breathes there a fool who believes the AG is upset and plans to find and prosecute them?
Trump’s out of office, but that hasn’t dimmed the left’s desire to destroy him. Sadly, the cutthroat ranks now include the sitting attorney general.
Their excuse, er, reasoning is that Trump is a danger to democracy, even as they marshal an unprecedented use of federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies against him.
In truth, the real danger to democracy is the government itself when it abuses its power for partisan purposes.
Dems, of course, remain terrified of Trump as an opponent and are trying to gin up their dispirited base for this year’s midterms.
The Biden administration has refused to comment on the Trump raid.
While the possibility that Trump broke laws by taking and holding the documents cannot be dismissed, the hysterical reaction of a raid belies the fact that the government had retrieved 15 boxes of documents from him in January and negotiations continued until June.
How is it, then, that Garland suddenly decided he needed a raid to retrieve remaining documents that left the White House 19 months ago when less radical options are available?
The timing is doubly curious because the raid comes just three months before voters get to decide who controls Congress. If Dems lose, GOP investigations of Biden and Garland are certain.
Part of the evidence in Trump’s favor is that Hillary Clinton got a much sweeter deal with her use of a private server to send and receive classified documents. There was no raid of her house, and even the disgraced James Comey, then the FBI director, did not trust then-AG Loretta Lynch to honestly pursue the case.
Comey, for once, was right, with Clinton getting a free pass not long after Lynch met with Bill Clinton.
WE’RE IN AN EMERGENCY — ACT LIKE IT!
At a time when the threat of authoritarianism is rising, Democrats have a duty to make crystal clear to voters what is at stake in the November elections.
by Mark Danner
Amid the blaring, pulsating hype of American culture, every election is routinely proclaimed the most important in our lifetime. Now the flood of heart stopping news this summer — the Uvalde school massacre, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the January 6 revelations — has brought us face-to-face with an exceptional problem: what if this one really is? What if this time, like the boy who cried wolf, we find ourselves screaming that the emergency is real — and no one pays attention?
The 2022 election will be the first held in the shadow of an attempted coup d'etat — a nearly successful and still unpunished crime against the state. It will be the first held after a Supreme Court decision that not only uprooted a half-century of will establish rights, but that threatens the rescinding of other rights as well. And it will be the first in which it is clear that from Republican legislators relentless efforts to change who counts the votes, the very character of American governance is on the ballot.
America voters have not confronted so great a choice since 1860. Now as then, two dramatically different futures are on offer. By undermining the right to privacy, the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision not only allows governments to force women to carry pregnancies to term — as more than half the states will likely soon do — but foreshadows a country in which a state or the federal government can deny people contraception or indeed the right to love or marry whom they choose. By limiting the regulation of firearms, the Bruen decision ensures that increasing numbers of Americans, including children in classrooms, worshipers in churches, and marchers on July 4, will die in shootings. By calling into question how votes are counted — or whether they should matter at all — the January 6 coup and the persistent "Big Lie" behind it augur a country where the candidate fewer Americans voted for not only can become president (as he did in 2000 and 2016) but can be awarded the electoral votes of a state not as the choice of its people but of its legislature.
This America of the future will be an ever more authoritarian place where government maintains the right to intervene in personal decisions, even the most intimate — except when it comes to firearms, in which case anyone, young or old, sane or unbalanced, can go about as heavily armed as a combat soldier. The coming election can either accelerate the country's move toward this kind of authoritarianism or begin to slow it down. If any election cried out to be nationalized — to be fought not only on the kitchen table issues of inflation and unemployment but on the defining principles of what the country is and what it should be — it is this November's.
(Mark Danner is the author of ‘Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War,’ among other books. He holds the Class of 1961 Distinguished Chair at the University of California at Berkeley and is the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and the Humanities at Bard. His work can be found at www.markdanner.com. (London Review of Books.))
WHY THE ALEX JONES CIVIL VERDICT of Nearly $50 Million Is a Lesson on How to Bankrupt the Gun Industry
by Mark Karlin
Although Alex Jones is attempting to protect himself from a recent civil court verdict (for compensatory and punitive damages) of nearly $50 million by declaring bankruptcy for his main propaganda business, more civil suits are in the pipeline. Furthermore, if the civil suit he lost last week for defamation is successful after appeals, along with others filed against him, he may indeed become bankrupt, even if he is raising money through other vehicles than his parent company right now.
Jones was sued for propagating the cruel lie that the Sandy Hook school massacre of 2012 was actually a false flag operation perpetrated to try to pass more gun control. The result has been a merciless and ceaseless series of verbal attacks, doxxing and harassment against the parents of children who died in the school. Jones’s statements were heinously harmful to those who were already living with the grief of a child being shot and killed in a classroom.
Civil suits are about attacking the pocket books of defendants, and they can be filed when a criminal suit doesn’t apply.
The gun industry learned of the danger of such suits based on the charge that gun manufacturers were and are knowingly excessively manufacturing guns for potential killers, and that they are specifically designing and marketing guns to appeal to the young, deranged, non-sports shooter based on firepower and style, as if they were selling the latest season’s cars.
As a result, the gun industry was successful in getting Congress to pass the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) in 2005. This bill made the gun industry the only type of business protected from a broad array of liability, with some narrow exceptions. In short, it put an end to a large civil liability threat to the gun industry for its design, marketing and chain of distribution. (As one successful suit showed, Sandy Hook parents settled with Remington Arms for $73 million in a pre-trial settlement.)
The Trace, a website that reports on gun violence and the gun industry, recently posted an article on how a few states are attempting to find legal loopholes in PLCAA. However, although not currently passable with the current Congress, what Jones’s failed suit portends is that the repeal of PLCAA would offer the possibility of a successful “supply side” approach to shrinking the gun market by putting many manufacturers out of business through widespread civil suits, such as the ones that were gaining steam in the ’90s and early 2000s.
This could put less pressure on laws aimed at individuals who shouldn’t own guns or violence intervention programs, since it is not really effective, as we have seen, to develop a large-scale approach that is based on a “good guys” vs. “bad guys” gun violence reduction strategy. There aren’t enough jail cells nor enough community-based resources.
The major cause of gun violence is too many guns, period.
While PLCAA provides broad legal immunity, it does come with exceptions. Lawsuits against gunmakers may proceed if the company in question violated a state statute “applicable to” the sale or marketing of firearms. Nearly all lawsuits since PLCAA’s passage have hinged on differing interpretations of the words “applicable to”: Does a commerce law that regulates commerce of all goods including firearms apply? How about a marketing statute prohibiting advertisements that promote violence?
These questions were at the center of a recent lawsuit brought by the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre against the gunmaker Remington Arms. The plaintiffs argued that Remington had violated a state marketing law by intentionally marketing its Bushmaster XM-15 rifle to young, unstable men. The families reached a $73 million settlement with Remington [in 2021].
This reinforces the vast possibilities of starting to reverse America being the most heavily-armed nation on earth among civilians, with a seemingly intractable death and injury toll. If it is going to be some time before PLCAA is repealed, start with passing appropriate state laws, such as the one in Connecticut.Â The bloodshed will not be reversed until the gun industry becomes unprofitable and is brought to its knees.
(Mark Karlin is the Editor of Buzzflash.com)
[ON FRIDAY] REPRESENTATIVE JARED HUFFMAN (D-San Rafael) voted to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, a historic bill that includes unprecedented investments to lower costs for people across the U.S., combat climate change, and close tax loopholes to finally make wealthy corporations pay their fair share.
“From the start, I have pushed for an economic package that would advance the President’s full agenda and fulfill our promises to the American people. And this legislation will make good on some of the most important issues facing my constituents: lowering prescription drug and energy costs, extending health coverage for millions, acting on climate change while creating millions of jobs, and finally making corporations start to pay their fair share in taxes,” said Rep. Huffman. “This is by far the biggest step the U.S. has ever taken to combat climate change, but I know that this is by no means a ‘mission accomplished’ moment. There are still a lot of priorities that were left on the cutting room floor that I will keep advocating for, and we must get off the fossil fuel roller coaster that has been driving inflation and killing our planet once and for all.”
The Inflation Reduction Act contains key investments that Rep. Huffman has led on in his role on the House Natural Resources and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees, including:
$3 billion to for the United States Postal Service to purchase electric vehicles and build charging and support infrastructure. It also includes $15 million to the USPS Inspector General for oversight of implementation of the Postal EV fleet. Rep. Huffman has advocated for electrifying the postal fleet since he first came to Congress through his Postal Vehicle Modernization Act.
Funding for National Forest System restoration and fuels reduction projects including $1.8 billion for hazardous fuels reduction projects; $200 million for vegetation management projects; and $50M for protecting and inventorying old growth forests. Rep. Huffman has supported a myriad of wildfire mitigation and prevention legislation, including the recently passed Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act.
A number of investments for Tribes, including $12.5 million for emergency drought relief; $225 million for the tribal high-efficiency electric home rebate program; $220 million for tribal climate resilience and adaptation programs; and $145.5 million for a tribal electrification program. Huffman has been a consistent advocate for tribes in his district. This congress, he introduced legislation to help tribes access funds for water resilient infrastructure.
Provides $2.6 billion to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to fund coastal states for the conservation, restoration, and protection of coastal and marine habitats and resources, including fisheries. As Chair of the Water Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee and co-chair of the National Marine Sanctuaries Caucus and California Coastal Caucus, Rep. Huffman has championed coastal conservation and restoration through multiple legislative actions, including his recent bicameral Coastal Habitat Conservation Act of 2021.
The bill also includes important provisions addressing:
Allows Medicare to Negotiate Drug Prices: The bill will lower prices on the most expensive drugs for seniors and others enrolled in Medicare. The bill also caps the monthly out-of-pocket cost for insulin to $35 for those with Medicare coverage.
Extends American Rescue Plan Tax Credits for Health Insurance through 2025: This will protect affordable insurance for approximately 13 million people and prevent 3 million people from losing their health insurance altogether.
Medicare Part D $2,000 Out-of-Pocket Cap: It protects seniors from Big Pharma price gouging by capping Medicare out-of-pocket costs at $2,000 per year, with the option to break that amount into affordable monthly payments and provides seniors with free vaccines.
Domestic Clean Energy and Transportation Technology Manufacturing: Includes over $60 billion for clean energy manufacturing in the U.S. across the full supply clean energy and transportation technologies supply chain.
Clean Energy Tax Credits: Extends the full value of tax incentives for solar, wind, and other clean energy technologies to projects that meet certain labor requirements. Includes a tax credit for energy storage, hydrogen, and existing nuclear, and increases the value of the carbon capture (45Q) tax credit.
Home Energy Performance-Based Whole House Rebates: $4.3 billion over ten years to state energy offices to develop and implement a HOMES rebate program to significantly reduce home energy bills.
High-Efficiency Electric Home Rebate Program: $4.3 billion over ten years to state energy offices to provide families rebates for efficient appliance upgrades, weatherization, and other retrofits.
State-Based Home Energy Efficiency Contractor Training Grants: $200 million for grants to states to develop and implement programs to train contractors to install home energy efficiency and electrification improvements.
Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund: Establishes a $27 billion program to provide grants, loans, and other forms of assistance to support deployment of zero-emission technologies. Of this, $7 billion will be dedicated to supporting state green banks.
Improving Energy Efficiency or Water Efficiency or Climate Resilience of Affordable Housing: $837.5 million to make affordable housing more efficient and resilient.
Offshore Wind: Directs the Department of the Interior (DOI) to hold offshore wind lease sales in federal waters around American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Electric Vehicle Tax Credit and alternative fuel vehicle refueling property: A tax credit worth up to $7,500 for buyers of new all-electric cars and hybrid plug-ins would be extended through 2032. The bill would also create a separate tax credit worth a maximum $4,000 for used versions of these vehicles. It also provides up to $100,000 for each charging station or refueling pump installed.
Clean Heavy-Duty Vehicles: $1 billion over ten years to eligible recipients and contractors for heavy-duty zero emission vehicles, including school buses.
Grants to Reduce Air Pollution at Ports: $3 billion over five years for a competitive grant and rebate program to support installation of zero-emission equipment or technology at ports.
Low-Carbon Transportation Materials Grants: $2 billion over five years to the Federal Highway Administration to reimburse the cost difference between low-embodied carbon materials and traditional materials used in highway construction projects.
Neighborhood Access and Equity Grants: $1.9 billion over five years for a competitive grant program at Federal Highway Administration to improve walkability, safety, and affordable transportation access.
Progressive Tax Reforms
15% Domestic Corporate Alternative Minimum Tax: For years, many giant corporations have gotten away with paying nothing in taxes, leaving small businesses and working families to pick up the tab. This is a major step forward in combating corporate tax dodging and will help level the playing field for businesses large and small that pay full freight.
IRS Funding: After years of Republican budget cuts, this bill provides $80 billion of mandatory IRS funding, which will allow the agency to crack down on wealthy tax cheats, provide better service to those who pay what they owe, and reduce the deficit by roughly $400 billion.
Excise Tax on Stock Buybacks: Too many large corporations have plowed record profits into stock buybacks, enriching wealthy shareholders and their CEOs instead of investing in their workers or growing their businesses. The bill imposes a 1 percent annual excise tax on the value of stock repurchases by publicly traded corporations.
Environment and Environmental Justice
NOAA Funding: $320 million for the construction of new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration facilities, more efficient permitting processes, and research improvements.
Air Quality Monitoring: $235.5 million for state air quality monitoring and pollution control programs.
Environmental and Climate Justice Block Grants: $3 billion for grants and technical assistance to community-based organizations for projects to monitor and mitigate air pollution and climate change.
* * *
COMMENTS POSTED ON REDHEADED BLACKBELT:
(1) You do realize this guy is mad!? Probably over temped in Nancy’s hot tub.
(2) Well, we know the Big Guy gets 10%, 49% is customarily spent on feasibility studies along with associated meetings and reports, and 3% goes toward actual projects that can be used to justify the whole thing. That leaves only 38% to be divided as grift among the many like Huffie who need a slice. I’m sure each share is small percentage wise, but the pie is huge so there is plenty to go around.
(3) Except you’re just making numbers and shit up so easily ignored.
This bill is going to create a Lot of construction jobs and a lot of science jobs a lot of forestry jobs and its going to save old people on medicare $$$100’s every month for insulin and other meds.
Plus tax the frigging stock buy backs finally!
Tax the rich corps who buy back their own stock is the start of increasing revenues so income taxes on low wage earners( less than $60k) can be lowered or eliminated.
It's like the gruesome old lawyer joke…
What do you call a bus full of lawyers driving off a 300 foot cliff?
A good start!
(4) Wow! Congressman votes! Details at 11…
(5) Paperbag huffer, the Marin county attorney who has no business representing Humboldt and Del Norte counties except for the strange worm district slinking up a narrow coastal band drawn up by the demons. This was done to lock out true representation by locals for locals. Why Humboldt puts up with this is beyond reason. Marin is a place of affluent progressive snobs, always has been and always will be. Gold paint works best paperbag loser.
CIVIL WAR COMING?
“I think everybody needs to be calling for calm, everybody across the board. And everybody needs to respect our law enforcement, whether they be local, state or federal, I, myself, have been notified by the bureau that my life was put in danger recently by some of these same people. And it's— violence is never the answer to anything. Democracy itself could become unraveled in the country if disrespect continues to grow for American institutions.
— Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, Langhorne, Pennsylvania, as top Republicans like House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik and GOP Whip Steve Scalise have accused FBI officers of “abusing” their positions and “going rogue” to attack Trump.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
You would think that artillery shells falling around the largest nuclear power plant in Europe would elicit clear thinking and truthful discourse beyond “Its Putin's fault.” It should be a wake up call that events in Ukraine are in danger of spinning out of control and it may be time to sit down with the Russians, listen to what they have to say, and come to some kind of agreement. Instead, Biden announces on Thursday “1 billion more in military aid for Ukraine”. I can tell you right now if any of that US provided rocket artillery scores a direct hit on the Z. Nuclear Power Plant, takes out the 11 mile long Crimean Bridge, or slams into Moscow, there will be hell to pay.
HARRY THE K SUGGESTS....
The Alvars: Moving Temples of Spiritual Light
Warmest spiritual greetings, The Alvars of South India understood that they were moving temples of spiritual light. They were devotees of Lord Vishnu, the preserver, whose eighth incarnation is Lord Sri Krishna. In order to be a contemporary of theirs, focus the mind in the heart chakra, and rest comfortably in your own svarupa. Maintain a steady silent recitation of the mahamantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. Go where you need to go and do what you need to do.
Craig Louis Stehr
WE ARE NOT THE FIRST CIVILIZATION TO COLLAPSE, But We Will Probably Be the Last
The archeological remains of past civilizations, including those of the prehistoric Cahokia temple mound complex in Missouri, are sobering reminders of our fate.
by Chris Hedges
CAHOKIA MOUNDS, Missouri: I am standing atop a 100-foot-high temple mound, the largest known earthwork in the Americas built by prehistoric peoples. The temperatures, in the high 80s, along with the oppressive humidity, have emptied the park of all but a handful of visitors. My shirt is matted with sweat.
I look out from the structure — known as Monks Mound — at the flatlands below, with smaller mounds dotting the distance. These earthen mounds, built at a confluence of the Illinois, Mississippi and Missouri rivers, are all that remain of one of the largest pre-Columbian settlements north of Mexico, occupied from around 800 to 1,400 AD by perhaps as many as 20,000 people.
This great city, perhaps the greatest in North America, rose, flourished, fell into decline and was ultimately abandoned. Civilizations die in familiar patterns. They exhaust natural resources. They spawn parasitic elites who plunder and loot the institutions and systems that make a complex society possible. They engage in futile and self-defeating wars. And then the rot sets in. The great urban centers die first, falling into irreversible decay. Central authority unravels. Artistic expression and intellectual inquiry are replaced by a new dark age, the triumph of tawdry spectacle and the celebration of crowd-pleasing imbecility.
“Collapse occurs, and can only occur, in a power vacuum,” anthropologist Joseph Tainter writes in The Collapse of Complex Societies. “Collapse is possible only where there is no competitor strong enough to fill the political vacuum of disintegration.”
Several centuries ago, the rulers of this vast city complex, which covered some 4,000 acres, including a 40-acre central plaza, stood where I stood. They no doubt saw below in the teeming settlements an unassailable power, with at least 120 temple mounds used as residences, sacred ceremonial sites, tombs, meeting centers and ball courts. Cahokia warriors dominated a vast territory from which they exacted tribute to enrich the ruling class of this highly stratified society. Reading the heavens, these mound builders constructed several circular astronomical observatories — wooden versions of Stonehenge.
The city’s hereditary rulers were venerated in life and death. A half mile from Monks Mound is the seven-foot-high Mound 72, in which archeologists found the remains of a man on a platform covered with 20,000 conch-shell disc beads from the Gulf of Mexico. The beads were arranged in the shape of a falcon, with the falcon’s head beneath and beside the man's head. Its wings and tail were placed underneath the man’s arms and legs. Below this layer of shells was the body of another man, buried face downward. Around these two men were six more human remains, possibly retainers, who may have been put to death to accompany the entombed man in the afterlife. Nearby were buried the remains of 53 girls and women ranging in age from 15 to 30, laid out in rows in two layers separated by matting. They appeared to have been strangled to death.
The poet Paul Valéry noted, “a civilization has the same fragility as a life.”
Across the Mississippi River from Monks Mound, the city skyline of St. Louis is visible. It is hard not to see our own collapse in that of Cahokia. In 1950, St. Louis was the eighth-largest city in the United States, with a population of 856,796. Today, that number has fallen to below 300,000, a drop of some 65 percent. Major employers — Anheuser-Busch, McDonnell-Douglas, TWA, Southwestern Bell and Ralston Purina —have dramatically reduced their presence or left altogether. St. Louis is consistently ranked one of the most dangerous cities in the country. One in five people live in poverty. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department has the highest rate of police killings per capita, of the 100 largest police departments in the nation, according to a 2021 report. Prisoners in the city’s squalid jails, where 47 people died in custody between 2009 and 2019, complain of water being shut off from their cells for hours and guards routinely pepper spraying inmates, including those on suicide watch. The city’s crumbling infrastructure, hundreds of gutted and abandoned buildings, empty factories, vacant warehouses and impoverished neighborhoods replicate the ruins of other post-industrial American cities, the classic signposts of a civilization in terminal decline.
“Just as in the past, countries that are environmentally stressed, overpopulated, or both, become at risk of getting politically stressed, and of their governments collapsing,” Jared Diamond argues in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. “When people are desperate, undernourished and without hope, they blame their governments, which they see as responsible for or unable to solve their problems. They try to emigrate at any cost. They fight each other over land. They kill each other. They start civil wars. They figure that they have nothing to lose, so they become terrorists, or they support or tolerate terrorism.”
Pre-industrial civilizations were dependent on the limits of solar energy and constrained by roads and waterways, impediments that were obliterated when fossil fuel became an energy source. As industrial empires became global, their increase in size meant an increase in complexity. Ironically, this complexity makes us more vulnerable to catastrophic collapse, not less. Soaring temperatures (Iraq is enduring 120 degree heat that has fried the country’s electrical grid), the depletion of natural resources, flooding, droughts, (the worst drought in 500 years is devastating Western, Central and Southern Europe and is expected to see a decline in crop yields of 8 or 9 percent), power outages, wars, pandemics, a rise in zoonotic diseases and breakdowns in supply chains combine to shake the foundations of industrial society. The Arctic has been heating up four times faster than the global average, resulting in an accelerated melting of the Greenland ice sheet and freakish weather patterns. The Barents Sea north of Norway and Russia are warming up to seven times faster. Climate scientists did not expect this extreme weather until 2050.
“Each time history repeats itself, the price goes up,” the anthropologist Ronald Wright warns, calling industrial society “a suicide machine.”
In A Short History of Progress, he writes:
Civilization is an experiment, a very recent way of life in the human career, and it has a habit of walking into what I am calling progress traps. A small village on good land beside a river is a good idea; but when the village grows into a city and paves over the good land, it becomes a bad idea. While prevention might have been easy, a cure may be impossible: a city isn't easily moved. This human inability to foresee — or to watch out for — long-range consequences may be inherent to our kind, shaped by the millions of years when we lived from hand to mouth by hunting and gathering. It may also be little more than a mix of inertia, greed, and foolishness encouraged by the shape of the social pyramid. The concentration of power at the top of large-scale societies gives the elite a vested interest in the status quo; they continue to prosper in darkening times long after the environment and general populace begin to suffer.
Wright also reflects upon what will be left behind:
The archaeologists who dig us up will need to wear hazmat suits. Humankind will leave a telltale layer in the fossil record composed of everything we produce, from mounds of chicken bones, wet-wipes, tires, mattresses and other household waste to metals, concrete, plastics, industrial chemicals, and the nuclear residue of power plants and weaponry. We are cheating our children, handing them tawdry luxuries and addictive gadgets while we take away what’s left of the wealth, wonder and possibility of the pristine Earth.
Calculations of humanity’s footprint suggest we have been in ‘ecological deficit,’ taking more than Earth’s biological systems can withstand, for at least 30 years. Topsoil is being lost far faster than nature can replenish it; 30 percent of arable land has been exhausted since the mid-20th century.
We have financed this monstrous debt by colonizing both past and future, drawing energy, chemical fertilizer and pesticides from the planet’s fossil carbon, and throwing the consequences onto coming generations of our species and all others. Some of those species have already been bankrupted: they are extinct. Others will follow.
As Cahokia declined, violence dramatically increased. Surrounding towns were burned to the ground. Groups, numbering in the hundreds, were slaughtered and buried in mass graves. At the end, “the enemy killed all people indiscriminately. The intent was not merely prestige, but an early form of ethnic cleansing” writes anthropologist Timothy R. Pauketat, in Ancient Cahokia and the Mississippians. He notes that, in one fifteenth-century cemetery in central Illinois, one-third of all adults had been killed by blows to the head, arrow wounds or scalping. Many showed evidence of fractures on their arms from vain attempts to fight off their attackers.
Such descent into internecine violence is compounded by a weakened and discredited central authority. In the later stages of Cahokia, the ruling class surrounded themselves with fortified wooden stockades, including a two-mile long wall that enclosed Monks Mound. Similar fortifications dotted the vast territory the Cahokia controlled, segregating gated communities where the wealthy and powerful, protected by armed guards, sought safety from the increasing lawlessness and hoarded dwindling food supplies and resources.
Overcrowding inside these stockades saw the spread of tuberculosis and blastomycosis, caused by a soil-borne fungus, along with iron deficiency anemia. Infant mortality rates rose, and life spans declined, a result of social disintegration, poor diet and disease.
By the 1400s Cahokia had been abandoned. In 1541, when Hernando de Soto’s invading army descended on what is today Missouri, looking for gold, nothing but the great mounds remained, relics of a forgotten past.
This time the collapse will be global. It will not be possible, as in ancient societies, to migrate to new ecosystems rich in natural resources. The steady rise in heat will devastate crop yields and make much of the planet uninhabitable. Climate scientists warn that once temperatures rise by 4℃, the earth, at best, will be able to sustain a billion people.
The more insurmountable the crisis becomes, the more we, like our prehistoric ancestors, will retreat into self-defeating responses, violence, magical thinking and denial.
The historian Arnold Toynbee, who singled out unchecked militarism as the fatal blow to past empires, argued that civilizations are not murdered, but commit suicide. They fail to adapt to a crisis, ensuring their own obliteration. Our civilization’s collapse will be unique in size, magnified by the destructive force of our fossil fuel-driven industrial society. But it will replicate the familiar patterns of collapse that toppled civilizations of the past. The difference will be in scale, and this time there will be no exit.